McKnight cites red flags in city budget
Farmington council: Police department cuts likely in 2013
As Farmington’s largest, most expensive, visible — and some would argue — vital department, the police force has been shielded from staffing cuts other departments have endured in recent years.
But with new city leadership, police department spending is under scrutiny, and City
Council members are aiming for a 2013 budget that does not increase the levy.
City Administrator Dave McKnight raised “red flag” issues, among them many department budget practices including with the police department, during a June 11 council workshop.
He said he found many human resource costs were not included in many department budgets, but came out as expenses during the year.
Unbudgeted human resource costs were found in every police department budget and in the budgets for Municipal Services and Parks and Recreation, he said.
McKnight complied reports that show the Farmington police department budget included no money for compensatory pay in 2011, but the city paid out $52,691 for the line item for police compensatory pay last year.
This year, the department budget included zero in compensatory pay, but that benefit, which pays employees their hourly rate plus another half, has cost the city $8,663 since April for the police department.
Municipal Services budget also included no budget for compensatory time in 2011, but the department paid $10,010 in compensatory pay in 2011.
This year, the Municipal Services budget line item was zero, but since April the department has paid out $1,837 for compensatory pay.
The Farmington Parks Department did not include compensatory time in its 2011 budget, but the city paid $3,401 for it that year.
“Shame on department heads,” Council Member Julie May said. “It’s something that council could miss.”
McKnight said the numbers were created by the Human Resoures and Finance departments, not department heads.
Council members expressed concern about the city’s budgeting practices, and vowed there would be personnel cuts in the police department in 2013.
“I want to look at reorganizing,” said Council Member Christy Jo Fogarty, a longtime police department advocate (and wife of a Minneapolis police officer) who has long argued against reducing police staff.
McKnight and council members will meet with Police Chief Brian Lindquist and other directors July 9 to discuss budget plans.
“I don’t want the police chief to bring me any convincing evidence of why we need to raise the levy to keep all of his officers,” Fogarty said.
McKnight emphasized the need for tighter budget practices, calling it “scary” that the city’s general fund balance goes into the red twice annually.
He noted that the city still has two of its four union contracts to settle for 2013, and is estimating a $10,000 increase in the city contribution to the firefighter pension, an amount that could change.
Despite the concerns, McKnight told council members they should not expect the same
long, drawn-out budget battles they have gone through for the past several years.
Two years ago, council members were in sometimes heated conflicts with then-City Administrator Peter Herlofsky who repeatedly fought their cost-saving direction to cut the administrative services director position.
Last year, the council’s budget process primarily revolved around a plan to increase taxes to fund street projects; after numerous public meetings and discussions, it was dropped when the estimated taxpayer costs increased after an amount used in the calculation changed.
McKnight instead presented to council the detailed list of budgetary concerns, and a list of recommendations to reduce revenue projections next year to achieve better accuracy.
He stated in the council memo, “Not achieving our revenues has just as big of an impact on our financial health as overspending our budget.”
Proposed revenue reductions include $90,000 for building permit revenue that he said was largely based on the Dakota County Community Development Agency’s Vermillion River Crossing development.
He said the city needs to cut $96,148 from its 2013 revenue projections since the Farmington School District is cutting the number of school resource officers from three to one.
McKnight said he would work with department directors on their budgets and said the council could expect the preliminary levy and budget set in the fall to be very close to the final one approved in December.
Laura Adelmann is at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/sunthisweek.