EDEN PRAIRIE TAXPAYERS
Case, Eden Prairie: Former Mayor candidate complains,
Eden Prairie: Property Tax increases are not
Becker, Eden Prairie: Human services is not the
job of government
Eden Prairie: Thank you -- Phil and Brad and
Jon -- for cutting spending.
Star Tribune: Eden Prairie wants to give taxpayers
Duckstad, Eden Prairie City Council: Time to
give the EP Budget a BRAKE
Eden Prairie City Council: Defend city budget
Young, Eden Prairie Mayor:
Taking steps to control budget growth
Kirchoff, Eden Prairie: Thank you Phil and Brad
Gallenberger, Eden Prairie: Ten percernt budget
increase is too high
does Eden Prairie social services spending compare
to peer cities?
Briant, Eden Prairie: EP Budget set to double
in eight years
||See older articles from 2006
The following is reprinted from
the Eden Prairie News Letters to the Editor 07/17/2008:
Sad Day For Eden Prairie
By Ron Case, Eden Prairie
The proposed siting of storm water drainage ponds
on the former Sjostrand property illustrates the
confusing state of affairs in local Eden Prairie
government today. First, let me be clear about something.
During my last few months on the City Council back
in ’06, the preliminary approved Pioneer Trail
Road expansion layout placed the drainage ponds to
the west of the Sjostrand property on city park land.
So, the proposal to initiate a quick-take, condemnation
process to grab the Sjostrand land, demolish his
buildings and construct ponds was made in the early
days of 2007 by the new City Council.
What is frustratingly obvious is that we, the people
of Eden Prairie, had tax revenue coming off that
property. We had an owner who was painstakingly caring
for the buildings. We had a piece of Eden Prairie
history, arguably one of the finest vintage barns
in the western suburbs, being preserved in private
hands. Now the council is scrambling to defend why
the environmental review never identified the barn
as a possible National Historic Register site, why
the plans changed to move the ponds off public land
and onto private property, and why other less intrusive
storm water collection concepts were never considered
(such as rain water gardens).
Whatever happens now will not replace the tax generating,
privately funded preservation we had. Either the
barn will be torn down and we the public will get
ponds in its place or the barn will survive and we
the public will pay for its continued upkeep. (The
barn would make an incredible venue for community
theatre, concerts and public recreational opportunities.)
But to have acquired this property over the objections
of its owner and as a consequence to lose one of
Eden Prairie’s last hobby farms for some ponds
that could have gone about anywhere is truly a sad
day for Eden Prairie.
TO CASE'S LETTER
The following comment was submitted by "bigfoot" on the online version
of the letters to the editor section on the Eden Prairie News:
Mr Ron Case: Isn't this your second rant
in three weeks that includes "When I
was on the city council ... blah, blah, blah." I'd
like to point out that "was" is
the operative word because the voters decided
to remove you. There were no hanging chads
involved, it was simply the will of the people.
I understand your need to still feel wanted
and a part of city hall. Maybe the current
council would let you still serve in some
capacity. You could greet those attending
council meetings, or provide refreshments.
We could have a special name for you, "Helper
Ron", "Rad-cool Ron", "Ron
the Gopher" . . . just some ideas, it
would be a hit with the kids.
Regarding the Sjostrand property: I read
the Star Tribune story on that this week
and nothing they report supports your version
of what has taken place. Specifically they
didn't credit you for doing "blah, blah,
blah." They didn't even mention your
name -- you're old news.
Going back to your rant about airport expansion,
I think you've contradicted yourself with
wanting to save an old barn that is directly
across the street from an airport that you
claim produces noise pollution, water pollution,
and airport. You threw in "carcinogenic" as
well for dramatic effect - but I don't think
noise can cause cancer, even in laboratory
What would happen if this "historic" barn
was no longer used for commercial purposes
(i.e storing boats and RVs) and instead was
used to house horsies, cows, and chickens.
If saved as a historical property this likely
could be the case. Do you want to be responsible
for horsies that are forced to endure all
that noise or inhale toxic fumes?
You also complain that the city took the
Sjostrand property off the tax rolls. When
I think farms or barns being removed from
the tax base, I think of you, Mr. "Take
of it off the Tax Roll Ron", I think
By all means Ron, keep the letters coming
in. Each and every one is a further validation
of the 2006 election results.
following is reprinted from the Eden Prairie News Letters
to the Editor 02/21/2008:
For Curbing Spending
By Al Krause, Eden
I have been waiting and waiting for someone to write
in to thank the mayor and City Council for finally
having the courage and fortitude to look into how
we can begin to control the city budget. For whatever
reason, that doesn’t seem to be happening.
It took Michael Boland’s “cute” letter
of half-truths and sophomoric word play (Feb. 7 Eden
Prairie News) to motivate me to do it myself.
First of all, the only cut in the budget that I am
aware of is the elimination of a half-time employee
in a department that duplicates services that Hennepin
County is already providing. If he feels his roads
and bike trails are being neglected, it isn’t
because of cuts in the budget for that department.
And since when is looking at an area of service to
see if there might be a better way of handling it, “threatening
to close it down.” Last time I checked, the
Senior Center is doing quite nicely in its present
facilities. I volunteer for Meals on Wheels and to
my knowledge no city funding has been cut from the
program. How many “historical sites” does
Mr. Boland feel the city should invest in? From the
information I have received, we already far exceed
the amount of money spent in that area for cities
of our size. And lastly, it is ludicrous to think
the city should be able to run a Community Center
that has doubled in size with the same staff.
I don’t know Mr. Boland’s situation but,
using his figures, an $11 increase in taxes when
compared to his admitted $35 average increase over
the last three years adds up to a $24 savings in
his city tax bill and I think he should be thanking “Phil” and
the City Council instead of belittling their efforts
to rein in city spending wherever they can. This
is the first time in the 31 years I have lived in
Eden Prairie that I can recall the City Council putting
forth an effort to hold down city spending and I
say, “Thank you!” for taking that first
step in what I hope will be a long journey to curb
Al Krause is an Eden Prairie resident
following is reprinted from the Eden Prairie News Letters
to the Editor 12/06/2007:
City Budget Decisions
By Brad Aho, Eden Prairie
Eden Prairie is well managed and financially sound
(Moody’s AAA rated); our city is ranked among
the top 10 in the nation. We are blessed with excellent
public and private schools, beautiful parks, a Community
Center, wonderful churches, homes, volunteer organizations,
recreational opportunities, shopping, restaurants
and our greatest asset — our wonderful residents.
Local government plays an important role in the quality
of life and delivers essential services such as public
safety, public works, parks and planning. However,
local governments should supply only those services
that the private sector or other governmental agencies
cannot and do not provide effectively.
The City Council has the difficult and important
responsibility of determining the budget and setting
the tax levy. There are different philosophies
on what services a city should provide and where
responsibilities lie. This year, the city had its
first Budget Advisory Commission, made up of residents
from diverse backgrounds and experiences that provided
fresh insight for operational and budget improvements.
In addition, council members received direct input
from residents. All the ideas were analyzed and
some will be implemented while others will not be
at this time. As a result, we have made important
improvements in the budget process that will bear
fruit for years to come.
Budget policy must be based on sound decision-making
principles and processes. In this phase of the city’s
growth cycle, our land is about 98 percent developed;
we have approximately 65,000 residents and we expect
to max out at about 72,000 by 2020. This means that
the fast-paced growth of the past is slowing. It
is critical that the budget have some correlation
to the growth of our city, or local government will
begin to place a disproportionate burden on its residents
Ultimately, the council will make the tough budget
decisions; it is likely that the budget will increase
over last year and will not be cut, but the proposed
increase will be appropriately reduced. While it
is easy to justify spending by saying a particular
item will cost the average household “only” X
dollars per year, that vision is short-sighted. Reagan
was correct when he quipped that no government ever
voluntarily reduces itself in size, and that a government
bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we will
ever see on earth. The truth is that as each item
increases the budget, it can become overly burdensome.
If a total budget grows by “only” a modest
7 percent per year, it will double in just 10 years.
My vision for this community is long-term, and the
important budget improvements by this council have
been made with a scalpel, not a chainsaw.
I believe that it is my responsibility as your council
member to ensure that the city provides all essential
services efficiently and cost effectively. Our current
staff is well qualified and does a fantastic job
of providing top-notch services. We are not in a
budget crisis now and we need to spend our residents’ money
wisely while planning for the future to prevent one.
We must be good stewards of all of the resources
that the public entrusts us to manage, including
buildings, vehicles, equipment, land and parks. We
have strong plans in place and will work to maintain
all our resources through careful planning and execution.
Keeping the quality of life high and maintaining
the services that residents expect do not necessarily
require more spending. I will continue to work
diligently with Mayor Young, other council members
and our citizens
for innovative ways to keep city spending as low
as possible while maintaining essential services
without jeopardizing our resources or quality of
Brad Aho has been an Eden Prairie Councilmember since 2005. He is
currently running for his second term.
For a lively commentary on this letter, see the
Eden Prairie News Comments Section
following is reprinted from the Eden Prairie News Letters
to the Editor 11/15/2007:
By Karen Kirchoff, Eden
I think the majority of residents prefer the reasonable
position set forth by Mayor [Phil] Young and other
council members, which is centered on the proper
role of city government. We are fortunate to have
leaders who are willing to make tough budgeting choices
that both manage property tax increases and keep
government focused on its proper role. We do not
want government to do everything, but we do want
government to perform its limited role very well.
Thanks to Mayor Young, Councilmember [Brad] Aho
and Councilmember [Jon] Duckstad for having the courage
to set budgeting priorities that the majority can
The following data was gathered
from various sources:
|HOW DOES EDEN PRAIRIE COMPARE?
Amount spent on social services (2007)
The following is reprinted
from the Eden Prairie News Letters to the Editor 11/08/2007:
Increases Are Not Painless
By Roger Luoma, Eden Prairie
What will really happen if Eden Prairie’s
council refuses to hold the line on city spending?
Whether we want to admit it or not, everyone knows
the answer: If the trend isn’t turned around,
property taxes will continue to climb at a pace that
greatly exceeds that of our incomes.
These property tax increases are not painless. Residents
relying on fixed incomes could be priced out their
homes, and tenants will see their rents rise as landlords
pass on the extra costs. As Eden Prairie’s
already-high tax rates keep climbing, the city becomes
less attractive to new home buyers and builders when
compared to neighboring cities with lower rates.
Tax hikes have real consequences. In carefully handling
the pressures they feel in the long budget debate
and in trying to make good decisions, members of
our City Council need to stay focused on the big
The following is reprinted from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune
Prairie wants to give taxpayers a break
Eden Prairie wants to hold the line on
taxes by trimming some spending. Among ideas: Cut the
Somali immigrant liaison position.
By Laurie Blake, Star Tribune
To cushion Eden Prairie property taxpayers against
the extra $1 million it will cost to operate the expanded
community center next year, city council members plan
to collect less money for capital improvements for
at least the next two years.
In continuing discussions about the city's 2008-09
budget, which must be finalized by December, four council
members said Tuesday that they will vote to collect
between $250,000 and $500,000 less for capital improvements
in 2008 and 2009 while the city adjusts to the higher
community center costs. The exact amount of the reduction
was not settled.
Mayor Phil Young said a temporary drop in the city's
annual $1 million capital improvement levy is in order,
especially because the city will soon receive $3.5
million from the sale of land at Hwy. 212 and Prairie
Center Drive to Presbyterian Homes for a new senior
housing complex. "I think it's appropriate to
give the taxpayers a little break," Young said.
The council is considering spending roughly $41 million
next year, up 4.8 percent, or about $1.9 million, from
2007. The owner of a $374,800 median-priced Eden Prairie
home would pay $1,082 in city property taxes next year
-- up $9 from 2007.
Young and council members Brad Aho and Jon Duckstad
have been studying the budget for ways to reduce spending.
All three of them ran for office as tax-conscious
candidates with Republican Party endorsement.
Eden Prairie is a high-tax city, Young said. "On
a per-capita basis we still lead our peers in taxation.
And I would like to change that. If we can make gradual
progress toward that, I would be happy."
Young said he would like to replace the car allowance
for city employees with mileage reimbursement and reduce
the city's heritage preservation position to half time.
He, Aho and Duckstad also plan to use their majority
position on the five-member council to eliminate the
city's Somali immigrant liaison position. They have
said it is not a service a city should provide.
Aho and Duckstad also favored city staff salary increases
below those given in most neighboring suburbs. "I
don't think we have to be at the top to have and hold
good employees," Duckstad said.
Young declined to join them, however, saying he is
satisfied that Eden Prairie salaries are in the mid-range
of comparable cities. He endorsed City Manager Scott
Neal's recommendation to give the staff 3 percent raises
in 2008 and 2009.
When property taxes are going up by only 9 percent,
it's not the time to give city employees a below-market
wage increase, Neal told council members. A $9 increase
in taxes for the median priced house is considerably
less than other years when tax increases ranged from
$84 in 2002 to $65 in 2006 to $36 last year, Neal said. "I
think $9 is a reasonable number."
Eden Prairie is able to hold the tax increase low
because "we now have the fourth-largest tax capacity
in the state -- behind only Minneapolis, St. Paul and
Bloomington," Neal said.
Council Member Sherry Butcher opposed a reduction
in the capital improvement levy. She said it is shortsighted
and unwise to discontinue the city's longstanding pay-as-you-go
practice of putting away money every year for road,
trail, building and other maintenance needs.
Butcher said residents wanted the community center
expansion -- they approved it by referendum and expected
to pay more to operate it. Offsetting that cost by
collecting less for capital improvements is like telling
people "you are going to get a fabulous community
center but you aren't going to have to pay for it," Butcher
But Aho said the community center operating costs
are higher than anyone expected, and other new capital
projects should be postponed as a result. He said his
hope is that public costs will come down as the center
generates more revenue.
Council Member Kathy Nelson said she is willing to
accept a temporary reduction in capital improvement
spending. But she opposed the elimination of the Somali
" It's the kind of service that this community
still needs to have," she said. With such a large
number of Somali immigrants living in Eden Prairie
-- as many as 5,000 by city estimates -- "it makes
sense that somebody speaks Somali within the city," Nelson
Young said that he would be willing to contribute
some city funds toward the position if other units
of government or private groups also contributed.
The council will vote Nov. 13 on which human services
contracts to continue next year.
The following is reprinted from
the Eden Prairie News 11/01/2007:
steps to control city budget growth
By Phil Young, Eden Prairie
The operating budget for the city of Eden Prairie
has grown substantially over the last seven years and
now stands at around $40,000,000. In a time of low
inflation, low to moderate private sector wage growth,
and the end of Eden Prairie’s growth boom and
the easy money generated by it, fiscal discipline by
the City Council is increasingly important. Annual
budget increases of 6 to 8 percent simply are not sustainable
over the long term and must be moderated.
The good news is that budget growth can be moderated
without taking police officers off the street, letting
streets fall apart, under-paying city employees, closing
parks, or doing any of the other things which critics
like to threaten whenever the subject of fiscal discipline
is raised. The reality is that Eden Prairie will never
be a low service or low tax city; but, there’s
no reason we need to continue leading our peer cities
in per capita taxation.
The first step in controlling budget growth is electing
leaders who ask questions and aren’t afraid to
challenge the status quo. I think the city has made
good progress in this regard. This year, for example,
Council Members Jon Duckstad and Brad Aho have suggested
temporarily suspending our annual levy of $1 million
for capital improvements in order to cushion the impact
to the budget because of increased costs associated
with the Community Center expansion. Council Member
Kathy Nelson has also given some consideration to a
temporary reduction of this levy. But, irrespective
of what decision the council ultimately makes, even
just debating an idea like this makes our process better.
The second step in controlling budget growth is making
the budget process more open with more opportunities
for citizen input. Our process today, with preliminary
budgets in the spring, multiple council workshops talking
about the budget, and input from the newly formed citizens
Budget Advisory Commission, is much better than when
I joined the council in 2003. Council Member Sherry
Butcher has been an important supporter of this improved
The third step in controlling budget growth is execution – defining
the city’s mission and expending public funds
towards that mission in the most prudent manner possible.
Does this mean taking cops off the street or letting
streets fall apart? Of course not. But, it should include
the following: 1) looking for efficiencies and controlling
the expansion of city services into non-core functions;
2) providing services regionally or in partnership
with other taxing jurisdictions where possible; 3)
establishing metrics as a tool for wage increases;
4) avoiding pet projects.
This last step is the hardest and will involve some
missteps. The city did not do a good job (and I include
myself in this criticism) of identifying the true cost
of the Community Center project before we asked voters
to approve it at referendum. More recently, the council
agreed to reduce the rent for the Dunn Bros. franchisee
at the Smith Douglas More house by 80 percent because
the business is struggling – that rent reduction
should have been rejected and we should be looking
for another retail tenant.
But, there’s good news, too, and there is no
doubt in my mind that the budget ultimately approved
by the City Council for 2008 will be much better because
of the current council leadership and the improvement
to our budget process. These improvements are a direct
result of decisions made by voters in the ballot booth.
The result is that the city is well positioned to continue
providing excellent service while avoiding excessive
property tax increases.
Phil Young is the mayor of Eden Prairie
The following is reprinted from
the Eden Prairie News 09/13/2007:
is improved, 10 percent is too high
By Paul Gallenberger, Eden
I am glad to see that council members are openly
indicating their positions during the budget debate
that has just been initiated. It is a drastic improvement
over the revised meeting minutes, and lack of discussion
allowed during the past eight years of council politics.
I am also glad to see the Budget Advisory Commission
initiated much of the current discussion, as they are
proving their value already, by initiating discussion.
The hard work begins now. Past councils have, for
the most part, rubber stamped every council budget
recommendation. Eden Prairie, as a direct result, has
one of the highest per capita tax rates in the metro
area. If the council were to pass a 10 percent increase
in taxes it would be a complete failure in my opinion,
and to anyone else that voted to keep taxes lower.
I am not going to write and say “cut this” or “save
that.” That is the council’s job to determine
and I believe we finally have a council that is willing
to do its job. I just want the council to know that
people have left Eden Prairie, and more are contemplating
leaving Eden Prairie due to taxes, and nobody ever
takes this into account, which is a true shame.
What I’m trying to say is that I truly don’t
care what you cut, that is your responsibility to decide,
and you will get yelled at by a few hotheads no matter
how you arrive at a reasonable budget. A 10 percent
increase is not reasonable. Three percent is reasonable,
4 percent maybe but you would be pushing it. If you
decide to cut things that affect me, I will live by
your decision and life will go on just as it will for
everyone else (God willing). Please don’t let
a few people playing politics, saying you’re
killing “quality of life,” affect your
discussions. Most people don’t want to write
into the newspaper so the few people who write in constantly
every month of the year, are not even remotely representative
of the city. It’s time to throw their politics
away, and time for a council that represents discussion,
hard work and action.
The following is reprinted from
the Eden Prairie News 09/13/2007:
spending leading to doubling of property taxes
By Tom Briant, Eden Prairie
The recent protests by some residents over proposed
reductions in the Eden Prairie human services department
budget has overshadowed the much larger issue of excessive
spending that is on track to double the city’s
property taxes in just eight more years.
At the Dec. 13, 2005, City Council meeting, Council
Member Brad Aho predicted that the city’s budget
would double in 10 years by 2015 if spending continued
to increase by 7 percent each year. This prediction
is fast becoming a reality.
The real question that no one seems to be asking,
including local conservatives, is “Why is spending
increasing at such high rates?” The 2006 city
general operating budget increased 6.8 percent or $2,062,000
over the 2005 budget. For 2007, spending was raised
again by 5.7 percent or $1,832,000. Now, for the 2008
budget, City Manager Scott Neal has presented the City
Council with a 6.3 percent increase in spending which
equals another $2,154,000 property tax increase.
The city manager may respond that his version of the
2008 budget reduced the actual increase in spending
requested by top city staff who collectively preferred
to raise spending in 2008 by 9.3 percent or $3.1 million
dollars. Mr. Neal may also claim that the tax impact
on homeowners is small when you spread $2,154,000 over
the total number of homes in the city. This type of
argument that minimizes property tax impacts can be
made for any spending increase and is used to deflect
criticism away from the real issue of an excessive
$2,154,000 spending increase.
With the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting
that the current inflation rate stands at 2.4 percent
for the past 12 months, why is the city manager proposing
to increase spending by more than two and one-half
times the current inflation rate?
For each of the past two years, the City Council has
been presented with a list of unnecessary expenditures
and reasonable spending reductions of more than $1,000,000
that would not impact police and fire protection, utility
services and local parks. However, these recommendations
have been essentially dismissed by Democrat and Republican
council members alike.
Even with the City Council’s refusal to reduce
unnecessary expenditures (such as the $36,000 in car
allowances paid to city staff members annually to buy
or lease a personal car to drive to and from work including
a $6,000 personal car allowance paid to Scott Neal
in addition to his CEO level base salary of $134,971),
the real reason why spending continues unabated can
be traced back to the city manager, his city staff
and the City Council.
Essentially, Scott Neal and the city department heads
who compile the budget have few budgeting restrictions
placed upon them by the City Council. Despite continued
suggestions to council members that they set spending
parameters for the city staff, the council has not
provided staff with any concrete spending guidelines
to restrict spending levels. While the council has
held budget workshops, the outcome of those sessions
have been nebulous objectives and philosophical discussions
as opposed to hard and fast spending limits.
Moreover, and this a very important fact, when individual
council members have requested budget options at specified
amounts, those requests have for all intents and purposes
been ignored and rejected by Scott Neal and his city
staff. In the fall of 2005, Council Member Brad Aho
requested that city staff develop budget options for
2006 with 3 percent, 4 percent and 5 percent spending
increases without reducing the budgets for police,
fire and other critical services. Instead, budgets
with 4.7 percent and 5.2 percent increases were presented
and Council Member Aho never received the budget options
More recently, at a council budget workshop held in
May of this year, Council Member Jon Duckstad asked
for a proposed 2008 budget option that had no spending
increases (a zero percent increase option). Instead,
as stated above, the city manager has presented the
council with a budget calling for a 6.3 percent spending
increase. Are you detecting a pattern here?
When an elected City Council member makes a specific
request to city staff for various budget options, the
council member has every right to expect that request
will be fulfilled and city staff has the responsibility
to provide exactly what has been asked for by the elected
official. After all, the city manager was hired by
and works for the City Council, not vice versa.
The results of the November elections sent a clear
message to the City Council and the city staff. Reduce
unnecessary spending and lower property taxes. Apparently,
that message seems to be falling on some deaf ears.
The end result will be the very real possibility that
the city budget and local property taxes will double
from their 2005 levels in just eight short years. When
this doubling of property taxes occurs, will anyone
seriously boast of Eden Prairie’s quality of
Tom Briant is a resident of Eden Prairie and was
a cofounder of the Eden Prairie Taxpayers Alliance.
The following is reprinted from
the Eden Prairie Sun-Current 08/29/2007:
services not the job of city government
By Robert Becker, Eden
I am responding to guest columnist Cari Maguire
(Eden Prairie Sun-Current, Aug. 16). I'll start by
answering the question in the title: "Is human service
an Eden Prairie value?" The answer is YES, but on
an individual level, not on the backs of taxpayers.
I fully support the city giving grants to non-city
social service agencies, but do not agree that the
city needs its own human services staff. The non-city
organizations have staffs that manage grants, and
are accountable to provide the services they specialize
Maguire also mentions the 1 percent effect on her
family's tax bill. I would encourage her to make
that $10 donation directly to the organization of
her choice, as I do when contributing to the United
The voters clearly communicated last fall that what
has been done for 40 years is not necessarily what
is needed now. City staff is expensive, and should
be questioned in every department.
I voted for the current administration, as the majority
did, and I fully support the direction that the City
Council and the city manager are moving. I do not
believe that our municipality needs to have city
staff to be part of the safety net that is provided
by, as Maguire states, "the state, the county, faith
communities and nonprofits."
Eden Prairie values are a reflection of the acts
of individuals in the community, not the result of
a mission statement prepared by city staff.
The following is reprinted from
the Eden Prairie News 08/23/2007:
Time To Give The City Budget a BRAKE
By Jon Duckstad, Eden
As the work intensifies to shape a 2008/09 Eden
Prairie city budget, it is a time for the City Council
to balance spending and taxes, to examine short-
and long-range goals and to consider how future revenue
will keep up with fast-rising expenses and cumulative
The work process includes a “first.” The
city manager, staff and council are being assisted
by a conscientious Budget Advisory Task Force. It
is the initial step to improve the budget-making
process; we are learning from it and are seeing ways
the council can more pro-actively guide its direction.
To improve is a must as we try to restrain spending
and keep taxes under control.
First, spending is sharply up. A review of our
2006/07 budgets reveals significant spending
|Eden Prairie Budget
If this same level of spending continues, our total
city-operating budget will double in 13 years,
even though our population growth will have leveled
The recent $15 million Community Center project and additional park projects
have raised additional fiscal concerns. For example, the increased annual cost
of operating the center, over and above the anticipated revenue from the facility,
reportedly will be about $1 million annually.
Serious concerns do not end here. Cumulative debt
has increased substantially since 2004. The Community
Center project was an outgrowth of demand for
services. It also is a component of the cumulative debt. Debt can be relatively
painless when the tax base is growing but can turn out troublesome if development
slows as other costs continue to rise. As Eden Prairie ages, we need to think
|Eden Prairie Yearly Debt Obligation
||$50+ million (anticipated)
The 2008 projected increase in debt service obligation
of approximately $345,000 will drive the 2008
and 2009 budgets even higher.
So how much spending is necessary? Our City Council
must decide annually what is necessary to deliver
city services. For a view of how we might determine
level, a review of the 2003 and 2004 budgets may be helpful:
|Eden Prairie Budget
In the face of state decisions to hold off
on certain types of funding to communities,
needs were reviewed
and solutions were found. That council – which
included current Council Member Sherry Butcher
and Mayor Phil Young, also a member then – should
be complimented for their valuable contributions to those budget initiatives.
As a result of these 2003 and 2004 budgets, the
city was awarded three distinguished and coveted
awards from the National Government Finance Officer
(1) The Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting
for the year ended Dec. 31, 2003;
(2) a Distinguished
Budget Presentation Award for the
period beginning Jan. 1, 2004; and
(3) an Award for Outstanding Achievement
in Popular Annual Financial Reporting
for the fiscal period beginning Jan. 1, 2003.
In addition, the city was awarded the highest bond
rating, AAA, from Moody's Investors Services
in 2003. Out of 834 cities in Minnesota rated
only six had bonds rated AAA.
A solution to burgeoning budgets may require our
City Council to take a more pro-active approach
to guiding the direction of the budget-making
City Council should consider providing guidelines to the city manager to improve
These should include three practices Moody’s recognizes valuable when it
sets a bond rating:
* Fund-balance target levels: A plan could be adopted
establishing certain fund balance levels to assure
tighter expenditure controls.
* Capping debt levels: A debt policy that sets
a cap or limit on cumulative debt.
* Multi-year budget planning: Annual budget initiatives
should embrace multi-year (three- to five-year)
planning. This would enable our budget process
spread out starts on significant capital improvements or other costly items
to insure sensible budget planning.
These actions could strengthen our ability to rein
in spending and maintain fiscally responsible budgets.
Jon Duckstad is in the first year of a four-year term on the Eden Prairie City