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State aid to cities and the hard choices coming

Posted at 8:40 AM on July 9, 2010 by Michael Caputo

Say you live in a small city and must choose cutting some kind of service - perhaps road maintenance or police service. Or maybe your city needs its residents to kick in more revenue - a sales tax, a property tax hike or, perhaps, a charge for response from firefighters.

This is what small cities around Minnesota may very well have to weigh in the coming months because of the state's recent pattern of cutting aid to cities - the Local Government Aid or LGA program.

The LGA program developed in the late 1960s as a way to keep local property taxes down and provide essential funding for cities (a good history can be found here).

Over the past few years, however, the state has been cutting the LGA money. And city governments are starting to take this very seriously, looking at cuts to services or ways to raise revenue. In the end, this all means something to the people who depend on snow plowing or road maintenance or public safety.

This poses a fundamental question: Just how should cities across Minnesota be supported by the state government? Is the LGA formula still working?

We posed that question to some Insight Now community members with a background on the issue and to sources who are part of MPR's Public Insight Network. Below are some responses to, hopefully, fuel a good conversation on this key issue. It's our next installment of our InTakes series.

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