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Dave Olson, Published January 25 2011

Voxland to refocus financial priorities

Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland challenged fellow City Council members Monday to come up with a five-year plan “to take back control of our city.”

Voxland said in his annual State of the City address that Moorhead has lost more than $2 million in local government aid in the past three years as state lawmakers sought ways to address budget deficits approaching $6 billion.

He said Moorhead is programmed to get $7.6 million in local government aid this year but added that much of that could go away.

To protect itself from the state of Minnesota’s “red ink,” Voxland suggested Moorhead come up with a five-year plan to identify the services residents want most.

Priorities, he said, could be identified via a survey of city residents, followed by citizen work groups that would define goals and set benchmarks to help city staff and council members know what services residents expect and how much they are willing to pay in taxes to get them.

Voxland said if state lawmakers cut Moorhead’s entire local government aid allotment, making up the difference through property taxes would require a 76 percent hike in the city portion of a resident’s property tax bill.

“I can’t imagine any council doing that to its citizens,” Voxland said.

Also Monday night, the council approved setting aside $500,000 from reserves to help prepare for a flood.

Much of the money would go for things like materials and equipment rental while a smaller amount would go to pay for things like leasing buildings to store sandbags, officials said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555