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Slashed Minnesota aid leaves area officials scrambling

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's call for slashing $110 million in spending aid for most cities and counties to cover a $426 million budget deficit is leaving local city officials scrambling.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's call for slashing $110 million in spending aid for most cities and counties to cover a $426 million budget deficit is leaving local city officials scrambling.

According to Pawlenty's budget cuts announced Friday, Moorhead will lose $560,516 in state aid. The city will receive $3,288,769 next week instead of its anticipated $3,849,285.

Dilworth is out $63,852 and will now receive $233,430 instead of $297,282.

Local government aid funding is distributed to cities and counties twice a year. The second round of checks that are affected by Pawlenty's budget cuts will be issued

Dec. 26.

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"Having the rug pulled out from under the cities at the last minute is upsetting, especially when we are willing to partner with the state to find a fair, long-term solution," Wayne Wolden, president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities said in a written statement Friday.

"The timing is very poor by the state - it puts the city in a tough predicament," said Dilworth City Administrator Ken Parke. The city's fiscal year ends Dec. 31 and officials won't know for about two months if they came in under their December budget, he said.

Dilworth's City Council meets Monday to examine and finalize its 2009 budget. Parke said the city may need to cut or freeze some expenditures - including the hiring of a new police officer in February - before the budget is set.

Moorhead City Manager Michael Redlinger said city staff have started meeting to discuss projected cuts and options for the City Council to consider.

"We really need to spend time thinking about cutback strategies and how we achieve that," Redlinger said Friday.

Clay County's aid was cut by $415,152 and will get $963,539 instead. Pawlenty did not cut aid funding from cities with populations less than 1,000 and counties with fewer than 5,000 residents. Unaffected cities include Ulen and Hitterdal.

Redlinger said the city will take a proactive approach by planning for any project cuts. "It's going to be a long process. One of the immediate things is working to prioritize those areas we want to maintain."

Redlinger said the city will use funding from its $10 million general reserve fund to recover the loss of state aid. Parke said Dilworth would also use reserve funding if needed to cover its remaining 2008 expenditures.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Benny Polacca at (701) 241-5504

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