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Detroit Lakes moves to cut $250,000

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The city of Detroit Lakes is bracing for $250,000 in cuts this year.

That's because it expects to lose almost 19 percent of its Local Government Aid, which will be a $180,000 hit to its $5 million general fund budget.

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The other $70,000 in cuts will be needed because of reduced earnings on working capital, ($35,000) and lower building permit fees ($35,000).

Each city department will feel those cuts -- and residents will as well.

City staff has put together 11 money saving proposals, and on Tuesday, the city is hosting a public meeting at 5 p.m. for the public to comment on the proposed cuts.

They include:

- Street lighting fee -- annually, the city would earn $36,000 and will earn $27,000 for 2009.

Utility customers will be billed $1 per month. The fee would offset increasing electrical costs to the city for operating streetlights. Streetlights would then continue to operate as they always have.

- Regional Drug Task Force membership fee -- annual earnings is $4,000 as well as for 2009.

The city received a fee from vehicles impounded in drug enforcement activities. The funds must be used for drug related law enforcement training and activities. Funds would cover the task force membership.

- Single only hospitalization council and public utilities commission -- annually would save $40,000 for the city and $30,000 for the rest of this year.

Council members and Public Utility Commission members are eligible for full family coverage as provided to other city employees. The change would reduce the portion paid by the city to a cost equal to the cost of a single policy.

n Reduce park maintenance part-time staff -- saving the city $32,000 annually, including this year.

Park maintenance activities and assistance for community organizations would change. Litter and trash pick-up, raking of the beach, frequency of mowing and similar impacts will occur in the parks.

"This is a 50 percent cut," City Administrator Bob Louiseau said about the staff reduction for the entire park department. "That's a significant cut. We're talking a pretty big hit in the parks department. You will hear from people about this."

Public Works Director Brad Green said when he looked at what could be cut, he "started with things we have to maintain" and worked down the list.

- Reduce capital equipment budget by 15 percent -- annual savings of $61,5000.

Each department will be asked to reduce capital equipment fund by 15 percent, which will mean extending life for small tools and minor equipment and similar actions.

- Eliminate lifeguards at the city beach and swimming lessons -- annual savings of $27,500 as well as for 2009.

The Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center offers swimming lessons.

Lifeguards staffed the beach seven days a week for 10 weeks of the summer.

City Finance Officer Lou Guzek said staff looked at just staffing the beach with lifeguards on weekends, but without leaving the docks, slide, log and raft in the water with no supervision, that wouldn't feasible. No one would want to put them into the lake each Saturday and take them out each Monday.

- Eliminate warming house staff at outdoor rinks -- annual savings of $7,000 and $2,200 this year.

Rinks would still be open to the public and portable restrooms would remain in place. Reduction in staff has already been implemented.

Green said with the potential move to People's Park if the Lincoln Rink property is sold to MeritCare, there may be the option for a different type of heating for the skating rink warming house.

He said there is a possibility of electric heat versus wood heat, and with the skating rink being close to the arena, staff from the arena could check on the skating rink and warming house.

- Summer recreation coordinator -- annual savings of $10,000 as well as for 2009.

Shared services with the school district to offer the summer recreation and community education program, and both are exploring contracting with the DLCCC for services.

- Adjust code enforcement cost of 80 percent of building permit fee revenues -- annual savings of $53,000 and $38,000 for 2009.

It would require adjusting work hours of existing staff to reflect reduced building activity in Detroit Lakes. No change would be made to current requirements for building permits or plan reviews.

- Garbage and solid waste hauling -- annual savings of $15,000 and $10,000 for 2009.

Public Works Director Bard Green received quotes for hauling services and lowest quote will save the city $12,000-$15,000 annually.

- Airport capital funding -- annually(including this year) it will save $8,000.

The city and Becker County provide 2.5 percent each of matching funds for 95 percent federal funds. There is no guarantee the city and county would be able to restore cuts when the possible expansion project proceeds.

"Other cuts are directly affecting our constituents. This isn't," Alderman Leonard Heltemes said in support of the cut.

"I don't know of any airport that doesn't have some support from the city," Louiseau said.

The $8,000 comes from the liquor fund and is used for the airport. With this proposal, the money would still come from the liquor fund but be transferred into the general fund.

The city council passed a hiring freeze, travel restrictions, reduction in training costs and no overtime Tuesday night.

It also passed the Regional Drug Task Force membership fee, reduced the capital equipment budget by 15 percent, approved single-only health insurance for the council and public utilities commission, and went forward with the garbage and solid waste hauling changes, but will allow comment on them Tuesday if need be.

"We're trying to turn over the rocks as fast as possible," Louiseau said.

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