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For Immediate Release
February 12, 2020

Contact: Donald McFarland
Phone: 651-236-0494

State Auditor Julie Blaha releases recommendations to keep our local government finances stable

Saint Paul, MN – Earlier today, State Auditor Julie Blaha presented “The State of Main Street” local government financial trends and recommendations to keep our local government finances stable. The Office of the State Auditor (OSA) analyzed township, city, and county numbers and provided 20-year trends in local government revenue, expenditures, debt and reserves.

These recommendations are the culmination of six regional listening sessions that took place in January 2020 in Thief River Falls, St. Cloud, Duluth, Saint Paul, Marshall, and Albert Lea. Auditor Blaha was joined by local elected officials and local government financial staff to hear their feedback on the 20-year trends. These listening sessions allowed the Office of the State Auditor to collect direct feedback to see if the state wide trends tell the real stories of communities across the State of Minnesota. In the attached document, you’ll find the 20-year trends and the Executive Summary.

"To support continued stability in local government finances, decision makers need to keep five ideas in mind,” said State Auditor Julie Blaha. “Local control can be effective in keeping local budgets stable, partnerships can reduce local costs, falling intergovernmental aid has shifted local costs to more regressive forms of taxation, surprises have a bigger impact than the sticker price and long term planning, and including consideration of emerging issues like climate change, can improve stability."

State Auditor Blaha was joined at today’s presentation by Ramsey County Board Chair Toni Carter, Dakota County Board Chair Mike Slavik, Stearns County Commissioner Tarryl Clark, Stillwater Township Board Chair Sheila-Marie Untiedt, and Albert Lea Assistant City Manager Jerry Gabrielatos.

"We must rethink our approach to intergovernmental aid,” said Ramsey County Board Chair Toni Carter. “Our communities' resiliency is being tested by the compounding impact of decreasing state resources, leading to insurmountable burdens that are unsustainable for our most vulnerable and economically disadvantaged citizens."

"It's our job to make the best use of the public's tax dollars," said Dakota County Board of Commissioners Chair Mike Slavik. "To do that, we make sure we plan for the long term, whether it's our budget or the many critical services we provide. Our careful planning has made Dakota County an attractive place to live, work and play."

Stillwater Township Board Chair Sheila-Marie Untiedt added, "Our residents expect clear, transparent and responsible conservative budgeting as property tax is our only revenue source. We need our residents invested in the township and trust we are good stewards of their property tax payments."

"Like other cities in Greater Minnesota, enlarging our tax base is a challenge. Based on the data we have, which indicates that flooding is going to occur more frequently, we will have to use a greater percentage of our limited resources to address the issues that climate change brings," said Jerry Gabrielatos, Albert Lea Assistant City Manager.

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The Office of the State Auditor is the constitutional office that oversees nearly $40 billion in local government finances for Minnesota taxpayers. The Office of the State Auditor helps to ensure financial integrity and accountability in local government financial activities. Julie Blaha is Minnesota’s 19thState Auditor. Follow us on Twitter @MNStateAuditor.

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