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CGMC Programs

Volunteers needed to help set CGMC policy positions

This time each year, CGMC members come together to shape the Coalition’s policy positions for the upcoming legislative session. We are currently seeking volunteers to serve on the policy committees, which will convene by conference call or in person over the next few weeks. The policy committees determine recommendations which will be discussed and voted on by the full membership at the CGMC Fall Conference coming up Nov. 14-15.

Serving on a policy committee is a great way to contribute to the work of the CGMC. Please contact the appropriate staff member listed below if you are interested in serving on one or more of the committees:

  • Transportation Committee will meet via conference call at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 23. Contact Shane Zahrt at sazahrt@flaherty-hood.com.
  • Economic Development Committee will meet via conference call at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 24. Contact Scott McMahon at shmcmahon@flaherty-hood.com.  
  • Annexation and Land Use Committee will meet via conference call at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 24. Contact Elizabeth Wefel at eawefel@flaherty-hood.com.
  • Environment and Energy Committee will meet in person from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 29 at the Waite Park Public Works Department (note: This will be a more in-depth meeting that will cover additional environmental issues as well as the CGMC policy positions). Contact Elizabeth Wefel at eawefel@flaherty-hood.com
  • LGA/Property Taxes Committee will meet in person at 1 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 1 at the Flaherty & Hood Offices located at 525 Park Street, Suite 470 in St. Paul. Participants are strongly encouraged to attend in person, but a call-in option will be available. Contact Bradley Peterson at bmpeterson@flaherty-hood.com or Justin Stofferahn at jmstofferahn@flaherty-hood.com.

Column: LGA increase provides critical boost to cities, but difficult budget decisions remain

Posted October 8, 2019 | Filed under CGMC Programs, LGA, Media, News, News and Events

Below is a guest column by CGMC President and Willmar City Councilor Audrey Nelsen. It was published in the Albert Lea Tribune, Fergus Falls Daily Journal, Owatonna People’s Press, International Falls Daily Journal, West Central Tribune, Austin Daily Herald, Brainerd Dispatch, Grand Rapids Herald and other papers throughout Minnesota.

As the Minnesota Legislature wrapped up its special session last May, one state lawmaker spoke out about the increases in Local Government Aid and County Program Aid in the 2019 tax bill. Cities, he said, “should be fat and happy for a long time” thanks to the $30 million boost in LGA.

Now that cities are in the midst of important budget discussions, I keep thinking back to that comment and how it trivializes the challenges cities face in prioritizing the needs of our residents and communities. 

Let me be clear — city leaders are extremely grateful for the LGA increase. Organizations like the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC) advocated for years to get LGA funding back to its 2002 high-water mark. Thanks to support from Gov. Walz and numerous legislators, program funding will finally be fully restored by 2021.

Still, I bristle at the notion that cities should now be “fat and happy.”

The $30 million in new LGA funding is distributed between760 cities. The median increase that a city will receive in 2020 is 4.2%. That is a welcome bump, but it is important to note that inflation alone is forecast to rise by 3.1% from this year to next.

To put it in household terms, the LGA increase passed by the Legislature is akin to getting a raise at your job at the same time as your landlord ups the rent. The raise certainly makes the rent increase easier to swallow, but it does little to help you get ahead.

The way a city chooses to use its LGA depends on a number of factors such as the state of its infrastructure, equipment and staffing needs, and rising costs. In an unscientific poll taken at a CGMC gathering this summer, about one-third of city officials said they plan to use the 2020 LGA increase to reduce or hold down their levy, while nearly two-thirds said the increase barely keeps up with rising costs.

My city, Willmar, is poised to get a $272,000 boost in LGA in 2020. However, the cost of health insurance for city employees is going up 30%, nearly $500,000. This added expense alone far exceeds any additional LGA that Willmar will receive. 

Here are examples of how other cities in Greater Minnesota plan to use their additional LGA:

  • Fergus Falls plans to use much of its $85,386 increase on street repairs and other infrastructure improvements.
  • Bemidji is using its$161,560 increase to keep its levy increase at 3% instead of nearly 6%.
  • Winona plans to use the majority of its $160,620 increase to help hire additional firefighters.
  • Little Falls plans to use its $136,790 boost to help offset salary increases for city employees and an increase in health insurance costs.
  • Eveleth will use part of its $140,869 increase to hire a patrol officer, which will help the city continue to provide police services to a neighboring township while addressing the challenges of the opioid crisis.

As prices for everything from concrete to electricity to health insurance premiums continue to rise, city officials are still forced to make difficult choices when setting city budgets. We are not aiming to pave the streets in gold, but we do want fewer potholes.

The truth is that other than LGA and property taxes, cities have few ways to get revenue to provide the services and amenities on which our residents depend. One way to help ensure that the quality of city services is not determined by zip code would be to peg LGA to inflation, as Gov. Walz has suggested. This is something municipal organizations like the CGMC have supported the past and which deserves renewed attention by the Legislature.

City officials are pleased with the increase in LGA, but city coffers are certainly not busting at the seams. As cities set their 2020 budgets, difficult decisions will have to be made. The modest boost in LGA helps provide a cushion, but cities remain far from “fat and happy.”

CGMC President: Mini session provides opportunity for legislators to delve into Greater Minnesota’s needs

Posted October 2, 2019 | Filed under CGMC Programs, Economic Development, Environment, Events, LGA, Media, News

For Immediate Release                                                                                              October 2, 2019
Contact: Julie Liew
PDF version

Below is a statement from CGMC President and Willmar City Council Member Audrey Nelsen on the Minnesota House of Representatives’ ‘mini session’ in southern Minnesota:

“I’m excited that the Minnesota House is holding its mini session in Greater Minnesota. It’s important for lawmakers to get out of St. Paul and learn first-hand about the needs facing our communities. It sends a critical reminder to the public that our state government serves the whole state, not just metro area.

“The agenda for the mini session touches on many topics that uniquely impact Greater Minnesota such as the child care shortage, Local Government Aid, water quality challenges and workforce development needs. These issues will need closer attention during the regular session and into the future, so it is promising to see that legislators are digging into them this week. We look forward to continuing conversations on the concerns facing Greater Minnesota cities, and we hope the mini session will better prepare legislators for action on these and other important issues during the regular legislative session.”

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The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization representing 97 cities outside of the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The Coalition educates legislators about issues important to Greater Minnesota. Visit the CGMC online at greatermncities.org and follow us on Twitter @greatermncities.

Register now for the CGMC Fall Conference!

Posted September 6, 2019 | Filed under CGMC Programs, Events, Fall Conference, News and Events

Registration is now open for the CGMC Fall Conference! The conference will be held Nov.14-15, 2019 at Arrowwood Resort & Conference Center in Alexandria and will feature presentations, discussions and speakers on a number of important topics. The packed agenda includes:

• A luncheon presentation by Laura Bishop, Commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
• A keynote dinner featuring former Senator David Durenberger and Star Tribune columnist Lori Sturdevant
• A legislative panel discussion on environmental & infrastructure issues
• Presentations on workforce development, plans for the 2020 bonding bill, and a fellowship opportunity aimed at encouraging young people to consider local government careers in their hometowns
• An update on labor and employee relations issues
• …and much more!

This conference is especially important because it is the time when the full membership will discuss and adopt the CGMC’s policy positions and priorities for the upcoming legislative session — it is critical that your city lend its voice to this discussion!

CONFERENCE DETAILS
See this CONFERENCE AGENDA & VENUE INFORMATION for full details.

REGISTER TODAY!
Please register online at greatermncities.org/Fall19. The deadline to register is Nov. 6.

HOTEL INFORMATION
Attendees are responsible for their own hotel reservations. Arrowwood has a block of rooms reserved for CGMC Fall Conference attendees at a discounted rate of $97 (plus tax). Call Arrowwood at 320-762-1124 by Oct. 28 to book a room under the CGMC’s block.

QUESTIONS? If you have any questions about the conference, please contact Julie Liew at jlliew@flaherty-hood.com or (651) 259-1917.

Take our Greater Minnesota housing survey!

Posted August 28, 2019 | Filed under CGMC Programs, Economic Development

Share your thoughts on housing needs in your community!

Looking ahead to the 2020 legislative session and beyond, we anticipate that housing will continue to be an important issue at the Legislature. The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities and its sister organization, the Greater Minnesota Partnership, are currently in the process of gathering information to help shape our legislative goals and agenda on this issue. In order to get a clear picture of the needs in Greater Minnesota, we are asking all of our members to fill out a quick survey at http://bit.ly/HousingSurvey2019. It should take 5-10 minutes to complete. The survey will close at 5 p.m. on Sept. 13.

The results from the survey will be discussed at our upcoming housing meetings on Sept. 24 in Austin and Sept. 27 in Fergus Falls. More information on the meetings, including an option to RSVP if you would like to attend, are included in the survey.

If you have any questions about the survey or the September housing meetings, please contact Julie Liew at jlliew@flaherty-hood.com or 651-259-1917.

CGMC, GMNP to host housing discussions in September

Posted August 16, 2019 | Filed under CGMC Programs, Economic Development, Events, News and Events

Looking ahead to the 2020 legislative session and beyond, we anticipate that housing will continue to be an important issue for the CGMC and our economic development-focused sister organization, the Greater Minnesota Partnership (GMNP). Housing, or a lack thereof, has a major impact on economic development and growth throughout the state, but oftentimes the conversation at the Capitol focuses on the needs of the metro area. That is why it is critical that the CGMC and GMNP continue be a strong voice for Greater Minnesota on this issue.  

In order to hear from our members and better understand the various housing concerns that impact your communities, the CGMC and GMNP are co-hosting meetings in Austin and Fergus Falls that will focus on housing. We encourage all interested city officials to attend. The information gleaned from the meetings will help us shape our legislative strategy on housing for the upcoming legislative session.

Here are the meeting details:

Austin: Tuesday, Sept. 24, 1-4 p.m.
Jay C. Hormel Nature Center
Ruby Rupner Auditorium
1304 21st St. NE Austin, MN

Fergus Falls: Friday, Sept. 27, 1-4 p.m.
West Central Initiative (Boardroom)
1000 Western Ave.
Fergus Falls, MN

NOTE: We initially reported that the Fergus Falls meeting was to be held Sept. 26. However, later since learned that date conflicts with the League of Minnesota Cities’ regional meeting in Perham. To avoid this conflict, we moved our housing meeting to the following day, Friday, Sept. 27.

To RSVP, please send an email to Julie Liew at jlliew@flaherty-hood.com and let her know which meeting you plan to attend.

See your certified LGA for 2020

Posted August 8, 2019 | Filed under LGA

The Minnesota Department of Revenue released the certified Local Government Aid amounts for 2020 last week. You can find the amounts for each city here.

The LGA appropriation for 2020 is $560 million — a $26 million increase from 2019. LGA will increase by an additional $4 million in 2021, restoring the program to 2002 funding levels. The 2020 LGA payments will be made on July 20 and December 26 of 2020.

Willmar City Councilor Audrey Nelsen elected CGMC President

Posted August 5, 2019 | Filed under Announcements, CGMC Programs, Media, News, News and Events

For Immediate Release                                                                              
Aug. 5, 2019
Contact: Julie Liew, jlliew@flaherty hood.com
PDF version

ST. PAUL—Willmar City Councilor Audrey Nelsen was elected to serve as president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC) July 26 at the Coalition’s three-day summer conference in Bemidji. As president, Nelsen will help direct efforts to inform state legislators on issues unique to Greater Minnesota, such as Local Government Aid (LGA), economic development, transportation and environmental policy.

Nelsen was elected by fellow city officials from across the state to lead the CGMC, long considered one of the most active, high-profile organizations to represent rural communities at the State Capitol.  

“As one of our most engaged and dedicated members, Audrey brings a smart and insightful leadership approach to our organization,” said Bradley Peterson, executive director of the CGMC. “I have no doubt that she will bring the same deep commitment to helping all Greater Minnesota cities that she brings to the city of Willmar.”

Bemidji City Councilor Ron Johnson, whom Nelsen is replacing as president, echoed Peterson’s comments.

“I’ve gotten to know Audrey through her involvement in the CGMC over the past several years and I’m impressed by her enthusiasm and passion for the issues that impact rural cities,” Johnson said. “I’m confident that she is the right person to lead our organization into the next decade.”

Nelsen, who has served on the CGMC board of directors since 2014, said she is ready to dive in and work hard to help find solutions to the challenges facing Greater Minnesota communities. She noted among the CGMC’s top priorities for 2020 will be to advocate for a robust bonding bill that invests in critical Greater Minnesota projects and programs.

“I’m honored to have been chosen to serve as president of the CGMC,” Nelsen said. “Looking ahead to the upcoming legislative session, I look forward to working with lawmakers and other city leaders across the state to tackle the issues that are important to our communities.”

CGMC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization representing 97 cities outside of the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The Coalition educates legislators about issues important to Greater Minnesota. Visit the CGMC’s website at greatermncities.org and follow the CGMC on Twitter @greatermncities.

Congratulations to the CGMC’s 2019 legislative awards recipients

Each year, the CGMC honors the legislators, city officials and community leaders who helped advance the CGMC’s goals over the preceding legislative session and/or an extended period of time.

Click on the names below to read a press release about each individual award recipient or click here for a list with brief descriptions of all the winners. You can also visit our Facebook page to see photos from the awards dinner on July 25 in Bemidji.

Legislator of Distinction- Tax Policy

Legislator of Distinction- Economic Development

Legislator of Distinction- Environment

Legislator of Distinction- Transportation

First-term Legislator of the Year

Excellence in Service – Awarded to CGMC elected officials, city managers/administrators and/or city staff who demonstrated knowledge, leadership and active participation in CGMC program areas over the preceding session and/or an extended period of time.

Excellence in Teamwork – Awarded to the elected officials and city staff of CGMC member cities that worked together to promote CGMC goals and priorities over the preceding session and/or an extended period of time.

Jack Murray Award for Distinguished Rural Leadership (retiring elected officials) – Awarded—upon their retirement from public service—to CGMC mayors and elected officials who have made special contributions to the CGMC over a multi-year career. The award is named after Jack Murray, former mayor of International Falls, who was instrumental in the CGMC’s formation.

Bob Filson Award for Distinguished Rural Leadership (retiring staff) – Awarded—upon their retirement from public service—to CGMC city managers/administrators or key staff members who made special contributions to the CGMC over a multi-year career. The award is named after Bob Filson, former city manager of Worthington, who showed consistent and relentless dedication to whatever mattered to the CGMC and its members.

Friend of the CGMC – Awarded to individuals (not legislators or CGMC city officials) or organizations who have helped advance CGMC priorities and/or made important contributions to Greater Minnesota.

Tim Flaherty Legacy Award – Awarded—upon their retirement—to legislators or other advocates who have demonstrated unfailing commitment and made extraordinary contributions to Greater Minnesota during their careers. This year the award is being renamed the “Tim Flaherty Legacy Award” in honor of Tim’s years of service to the CGMC and Greater Minnesota.

  • Tim Flaherty

President’s Award – Awarded to the outgoing CGMC president.

See you in Bemidji!

Posted June 17, 2019 | Filed under CGMC Programs, News and Events, Summer Conference

We have a great CGMC Summer Conference lined up for July 24-26 in Bemidji!

Agenda highlights include:

– Find out why Greater Minnesota needs to be a “pain in the behind”
– Learn about emerging trends and challenges in issues such as workforce development, housing, environmental clean-up and restoration, and economic development
– Explore the city of Bemidji by taking part in tours and during a city-sponsored reception, dinner and entertainment
– Discover new services, businesses and organizations at the exhibitors’ tradeshow
– Forge connections with other city leaders from across Greater Minnesota by sharing your ideas, concerns and hopes for the future

See this conference agenda and venue information for more detailed information.

REGISTER TODAY! Please register online at greatermncities.org/summer19. The deadline to register is July 17.

HOTEL INFORMATION – Please note that attendees are responsible for their own hotel reservations. The Country Inn & Suites in Bemidji has a block of rooms reserved for the CGMC at a discounted rate of $114-$139 (plus tax) per night. Call the hotel at 218-441-4800 to make a reservation. The block closes July 1.

QUESTIONS? If you have any questions about the conference, please contact Julie Liew at jlliew@flaherty-hood.com or (651) 259-1917.