Local government aid cuts force layoffs in city police, fire departments

Andrew Pritchard

The Minneapolis City Council finalized its amended 2003 budget cuts Tuesday, ratifying plans from each city department to trim their budgets and lay off employees.

The council cut $20.6 million from its original 2003 budget in response to state cuts in local government aid. The council had cut its original 2003 budget prior to the reduction because of financial problems.

After passing an alternative budget package March 13, which included smaller cuts for police and fire departments than the original more controversial package, departments had to trim their expenses and return to the council with their layoff packages for approval.

Police and fire departments, which were cut by approximately 7 percent each, will lose a combined 80 jobs. Together, they use 55 percent of city funds.

The Department of Public Works, which makes up 15 percent of the city’s budget, will lay off 87 employees after being cut 16 percent.

The council delayed approval of layoffs for the smaller civil rights department, which the council cut 19 percent.

The City Council expects state aid to be cut twice as much in 2004.

No decision on HESO Cabinet post

The state Senate Education Committee declined to vote late Tuesday on a bill to make the Higher Education Services Office a Cabinet-level agency.

Senate File 879, principally authored by Sen. Sandra Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, would allow the governor to appoint a state higher education director and would consolidate several higher education advisory panels into one Higher Education Advisory Council.

Susan Heegaard from Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s office said the plan would give the governor a single “point person” to consult about higher education and create more accountability for state higher education policy.

Chairman Steve Kelley, DFL-Hopkins, said he thought a larger higher education advisory panel would decrease participation by the University president and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities chancellor.

– Joe Mahon and Andrew Pritchard