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East Grand Forks might see even bigger state funding cuts next year

EAST GRAND FORKS - East Grand Forks could face bigger than expected state funding cuts next year, a representative of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities said Tuesday.

J.D. Burton, attorney for the coalition, was at the City Council meeting to discuss the 2009 Minnesota Legislature session and what it could mean to local government aid, or LGA, funding.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty's proposed cuts would mean a reduction of $669,000, more than 8 percent of the city's budget. Scott Huizenga, city administrator, said last month the biggest possible cut was expected to be about $600,000.

Burton said he didn't know where the difference between estimates came from, but added Pawlenty has said the actual cut will be between his proposal and the $186,000 suggested by the House of Representatives.

East Grand Forks lost $220,000 in LGA funding last year and could lose as much as $286,000 this year based on the governor's proposal. The legislative session ended May 19, but Pawlenty said he will balance the budget, which means about $1 billion in state spending needs to be cut and some could come from LGA.

The amount of cuts for this year should be finalized in the next few weeks.

Burton said it's important for city leaders to keep pressing state officials to minimize cuts because LGA funding helps keep property tax rates fair. Without the funding, smaller communities would have to dramatically raise taxes or lower services to avoid deficit spending.

"It's not over, and we're still fighting," he said.

Council member Marc DeMers said residents need to understand the money is vital for the things the city currently does. "The reality is that all these services that would have to go are not bad services," he said.