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Missed deadlines mean LGA losses

Published (3/30/2012)
By Lee Ann Schutz
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Pat Lawson is the city clerk for the west central community of Hoffman, with a population of 672. As a penalty for missing the Office of the State Auditor’s deadline for submitting financial paperwork, the town lost $69,812 in 2011 local government aid.

There are 44 other towns in a similar situation. And officials were before the House Property and Local Tax Division March 28, with explanations on why their paperwork wasn’t in on time.

Beginning in 1983, the law has required cities to meet state auditor uniform financial accounting and reporting standard in order to receive their LGA payments, which are distributed twice a year. Due to missing the reporting deadlines, in 2011, a record 45 cities did not receive their payment in July and 19 in December. The record continues with 18 cities having multiple infractions and permanently losing all or part of their aid.

Rep. Chris Swedzinski (R-Ghent) sponsors HF2786 that would give certain communities one more chance to comply with the reporting requirement. The bill would provide LGA payments to any city that had its 2011 local government aid payment withheld due to noncompliance by May 31, 2012.

Lawson’s explanation of a series of miscommunications, staff and council turnover, lack of understanding of state requirements and technology failure were common among the officials offering testimony.

“The impact of not getting our LGA is more devastating than you know,” she said. “We will have to cut from the fire department, ambulance, streets and economic development. We have cut maintenance, and my position is only part-time. They already depend on us to volunteer a lot of our time to make ends meet.”

“This may be the tip of the iceberg,” said Rep. Paul Marquart (DFL-Dilworth). Like Lawson, many cities have part-time staff, he said. “I do think the lack of knowledge on state requirements is a legitimate one.”

Chairwoman Rep. Linda Runbeck (R-Circle Pines) suggested the division make decisions on each of the delinquent cities individually. Swedzinski, however, agreed with Marquart that all the cities be offered the opportunity to meet a new deadline. The bill was approved and moved to the House Taxes Committee.

A companion, SF2583 sponsored by Sen. Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria), awaits action by the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee.

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