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Coalition pushing need for LGA

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak joins Willmar Mayor Frank Yanish and mayors and officials from area communities during a meeting Tuesday at the Willmar Fire Department to discuss dwindling Local Government Aid. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

WILLMAR — The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities is asking mayors and elected officials around the state to tell Gov. Mark Dayton about the importance of Local Government Aid in funding local street projects and providing municipal services.

“We’re encouraging all of our mayors and elected officials to be in touch with the governor’s office as he creates his budget for the 2013 legislative session, to remind him that Local Government Aid is an important program for communities across the state and that it’s really necessary that the governor pay attention to that and create a sustainable program that’s fair and equitable to communities to help them meet their needs,’’ said Coalition spokesman Bradley Peterson, an attorney with the St. Paul law office of Flaherty, Hood, P.A.

Peterson spoke to about 45 elected and appointed officials from area cities and a few interested citizens during a Tuesday morning discussion about LGA at the Willmar Fire Station.

According to the Coalition’s website, the goal of LGA, begun in 1971, is to assist cities with low property tax wealth or high needs to keep property tax rates reasonable and provide needed city services for economic growth and strong communities.

The Coalition is conducting regional meetings around the state to educate local officials and new and returning legislators about LGA — and also to gather support for retaining and possibly increasing LGA.

One of the officials attending the Willmar meeting was Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.

“There has been tremendous progress in educating people about the importance of Local Government Aid on their property taxes and basic services. All the work we’ve done over these years, I believe, is finally beginning to pay off. We just have to keep at it,’’ Rybak said.

“We believe there needs to be more in the system. But we also believe that needs to be matched with reform. Mayors and councils are ready. Now let’s have a partnership,’’ he said.

Peterson said LGA has been flat or declining in recent years. He said Willmar’s LGA decreased from $4.4 million in 2010 to $4.1 million in 2012. If LGA funding had been adjusted for inflation, Willmar would receive $6 million, he said.

“So it really is a continual project to remind legislators of the good work that is happening in local communities and the support that might be needed from the state to do that,’’ said Peterson. “That’s why it is important to talk to their senators and representatives.’’

Willmar is a Coalition member. Willmar Mayor Frank Yanish was one of the mayors who received the Coalition email urging support for the program.

“We don’t know where it’s going to end up at,’’ Yanish said after the hour-long session. “Since 2008, we have lost over $1.6 million in LGA and that’s a lot of infrastructure for Willmar.’’

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150