Ward 1 Crookston City Council Member Tom Jorgens, after years spent telling his colleagues on the council and city officials that the city is headed down the wrong fiscal path, upped his ante a bit last week when he said, budget-wise and financially in general, the city's "day of reckoning" is coming.

    Ward 1 Crookston City Council Member Tom Jorgens, after years spent telling his colleagues on the council and city officials that the city is headed down the wrong fiscal path, upped his ante a bit last week when he said, budget-wise and financially in general, the city's "day of reckoning" is coming.

    Ouch. No one wants to face any type of day of reckoning in their lives. It's just an ominous phrase and something to be avoided at all costs.

    But is Jorgens right?

    Well, if he is, one would think that his predicted day of reckoning would have to be spurred by the Minnesota Legislature drastically reducing or even eliminating the Local Government Aid (LGA) program. It's an amazing, even miraculous program, this Local Government Aid, which helps so many cities like Crookston from one corner of the state to the other provide services to their citizens and, basically, stay afloat and continue to operate as reasonably functional municipalities. Take away the $3.5 million or so that Crookston, one of the least prosperous cities in the state when it comes to property wealth, is receiving this year in LGA, and there isn't a property tax increase big enough to help keep the city from essentially going belly-up.

    Which makes the notion of LGA being slashed dramatically or eliminated so outlandish. Cities across the state would be financially crippled, and that would, in turn, cripple the state. LGA as a program as a whole is not perfect by any means – with some cities no doubt receiving funds they don’t desperately need – but it's not broken, either, so it doesn't necessarily need to be fixed, much less cut or axed.

    So that leaves the day of reckoning coming specifically for Crookston's financial operation, which, the thinking here, is pretty sound and fairly wise.

    Jorgens on more than one occasion has compared Crookston, budgetarily speaking, to East Grand Forks, which has and continues to deal with some tough financial issues.

    But is that fair? At least on some level, it has to be an apples-to-oranges comparison. Crookston leaders typically approve small, manageable tax increases each year, while being disciplined enough each year to contribute to various "enterprise funds" like the Municipal Land and Building Fund, which make various projects and purchases possible. There are various "fees" that residents pay that are really taxes in disguise, but they boost the revenue ledger, too.

    East Grand Forks? Their mayor and council’s approach and philosophies are simply different than the approach and philosophies being practiced in Crookston, so to simply assume that any budget headaches that ail them are going to automatically make their way east down U.S. Highway 2 to Crookston seems like a bit of a reach.

    Crookston as a municipality operates fairly well. Without LGA, though, Crookston's operation would go up in smoke, in the form of enraged residents faced with a 100 percent property tax increase running through the streets with flaming torches.

    Which is why LGA most certainly cannot go away. It would lead to a day of reckoning like you wouldn't believe, which would be felt in Crookston and hundreds of other cities.