Crookston couldn’t function as it does without state aid program

    The City of Crookston, with a 2018 Local Government Aid (LGA) allocation from the state of $3,700,601, relies on the state aid program to cities perhaps more than any other community in Minnesota so it can provide necessary services to its citizens without taxing them through the roof. The importance of LGA to Crookston is especially heightened when one considers the amount of property tax revenue generated by the City each year; the City is considered to be property tax wealth-poor.

    “By receiving LGA funding, Crookston is able to provide tremendous police, fire and emergency services, which is proven through our high ratings in safety and security and also having an ISO rating that ranks in the top 10 percent not only in Minnesota but nationally,” said City Administrator Shannon Stassen. “Without LGA, Crookston would simply not have the funding to provide these services at this level, the property tax burden would not be sustainable.”

    With Thursday’s announcement that the state will have a projected budget surplus of $1.5 billion for the next budget biennium, the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, of which Crookston belongs, is calling on the new legislature that convenes in January, along with a new governor in Tim Walz, to increase LGA funding to cities.

    The CGMC during the 2018 legislative session, advocated for a $30.5 million LGA increase, but Gov. Mark Dayton’s veto of the tax bill doomed any chance of an LGA increase. Had the tax bill been signed into law, Crookston would have received an increase in LGA this year of approximately $167,000.

    After Thursday’s announcement of the projected surplus, CGMC President Ron Johnson, a member of the Bemidji City Council, said there’s room in the state budget to boost LGA.

    “With the state clearly on solid financial footing, I’m hopeful that Governor-elect Walz and the new Legislature will seize this opportunity to strengthen communities across the state by increasing Local Government Aid, Johnson said. “City leaders in Greater Minnesota were encouraged that Walz frequently campaigned on the idea of boosting LGA, and this new budget forecast will allow him to make good on that promise.”

    In the 2019 legislative session, the CGMC will again seek a $30.5 million LGA increase.

    “A goal for the CGMC has been to return to at least 2002 level of LGA funding. We will be beginning 2019 soon and cities are functioning with levels of aid significantly less than 16 years ago. That fact is truly astonishing,” Stassen said. “With a surplus available, it seems logical that this would be the time to make adjustments to strengthen Minnesota cities with an increase in LGA.”

    “The CGMC’s top priority for the upcoming legislative session is a $30.5 million LGA increase, which is the amount needed to bring the program back up to its 2002 high-water mark. LGA is the most important state program to help cities restrain property taxes and afford essential services like public safety, libraries and snow removal,” Johnson said. “As city officials, we try our best to craft responsible budgets, but it has been a struggle in recent years as LGA funding has failed to keep pace with rising costs. We are eager to work with Walz and the new Legislature to make an LGA increase a reality this session.”