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Monday, November 13, 2006

Final New Brighton Budget Work Session on 11/14

Just a reminder that the final New Brighton Budget Work Session will be held tomorrow (11/14) at New Brighton City Hall at the usual convenient-for-the-taxpayer time of 4:30. It will be the final public discussion of the budget process before the state mandated Truth-in-Taxation hearing next month.

The previous work sessions have had a few fireworks and have led to an official maximum proposed levy increase of 6.39%. This figure has been submitted to the state and is the maximum the final increase can be. At first glance it appears that real progress has been made over past years when at the same point in the process the figure was at or near double digits. Unfortunately, upon closer inspection, it appears that the city staff and the big spenders on the council are trying to pull a fast one.

During the discussion at the last work session Council Member Gina Bauman discovered that the 6.39% figure did not include the budgeting for fleet/non-fleet maintenance which would add another 5% to the levy increase. This expense would be moved from the official budget to a bonding budget that the taxpayers would be obligated to pay for in one way or another in future years.

Essentially, through the use of an accounting gimmick, the budget proposed by the city staff hides spending that reflects a real budget increase of over 11%! There have been no meaningful spending cuts since the process started with the initial proposed levy increase of about 12.5%.

The proposed budget still includes the full 3% COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) raise for non-union employees, essentially because the city has already settled with union employees for the 3%. This should be a hard sell to retirees on fixed incomes and to citizens who have not received raises that have had to foot the bill to finance the city's double-digit levy increases over each of the last few years.

Bauman has proposed cutting the COLA increase to 1.5% which would translate to about a 3% reduction in the proposed levy increase. Unfortunately, only Council Member Sharon Doffing can be counted on to support this proposal. The three liberals that control the council will undoubtedly block this common sense way to trim the budget out of fear that cutting the proposed COLA will cause the impacted employees to seek union representation. To her credit, Bauman has publicly stated that she will not be intimidated by the threat of unionization and that the city also should not knuckle under to unions.

Doffing has also proposed the city look at several areas where spending could be cut, the most prominent being in the area of Information Technology. She has pointed out that the city spends more for software licensing and technology upgrades than most private sector companies with a similar level of IT need. Judging from the previous work sessions it does not appear that this area of spending has been looked at seriously by the city staff.

It does not look like 2007 will be a good year for the taxpayer. The big spenders on the New Brighton City Council appear to have dug in and are not likely to make any significant cuts to the budget, so the city will be into your pockets as deep as ever in spite of the deceptive levy increase figure. Couple this with the Mounds View School District levy that unfortunately was (barely) passed in the last election and the general assault on taxpayers that a DFL controlled legislature is going to create and it adds up to a brutal, multi-faceted financial mugging of the taxpayer by big spending politicians.

As with the previous work sessions there will probably not be much opportunity for public comment, but it wouldn't hurt to show up and support Council Members Bauman and Doffing as they attempt to stand up for the taxpayers. It also wouldn't hurt to remind the three big spending liberals (Council Member Hoffman, Council Member Burg, and Mayor Larson) that they all are up for re-election next year and that their penchant for big spending will not be forgotten.

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