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Benson looks to cut more from budget plan for next year

BENSON -- The Benson City Council is re-examining its 2009 final budget after recent news of the state's deficit budget.

City Manager Rob Wolfington said Benson held its Truth in Taxation meeting Monday and the City Council will look deeper into possible reductions for approval by year's end.

The 2009 budget calls for $3,139,586 in expenses and a general fund levy worth $860,706. Both numbers are 4.5 percent increases over this year.

"I showed the council two budgets Monday night," Wolfington said Wednesday. "Jokingly, I referred to it as the 'cookies and milk budget' or the 'bread and water budget.' And I think they need something in between or leaning to one end. But no one is going to see the 'cookies and milk budget.'"

Wolfington said the city anticipates less dollars from the state as lawmakers attempt to harness a projected $4.8 billion state deficit for the next biennium.

According to a League of Minnesota Cities' e-mail sent to Minnesota city managers and clerks, the league is anticipating the state Legislature to cut between $25 million to $100 million from the Local Government Aid and Market Value Homestead Credit programs. If that occurs, the league estimates Benson could lose between $21,200 and $112,600 in state aid from the two programs.

"The sad part is you won't know until the middle of next year when the money is halfway spent," Wolfington said. "So you have to be conservative from day one."

Wolfington said one proposal by the council includes an "anticipated budget reserve that we usually transfer to capital outlay." The modification, which will discontinue the fund transfer, yields about $140,000 for the budget, he said.

Other proposals could include revolving loan fund and management fees for the city's economic development authority, Wolfington said.

The council also talked about creating a natural gas franchise and enacting a city employee pay freeze, Wolfington said. The total amount of savings if all proposal were approved would be about $349,000.

"I would imagine the council would adopt some phase or some or all of those on (Dec. 22)," Wolfington said. "... But I hope they do have a serious discussion on it."