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Alexandria mayor relieved that cities will have more time

When Alexandria Mayor Dan Ness found out that Governor Tim Pawlenty had, at least for the moment, spared local government aid (LGA) from the chopping block, he was relieved.

"I was cautiously optimistic and elated," said Ness when contacted by the newspaper on Wednesday, a day after Pawlenty's decision. "I certainly know that down the pike, there will be adjustments to our 2010 LGA but at least now we'll have some time to adjust to it."

If the governor would have decided to "unallot" the LGA that the state had already told cities they would receive, Alexandria would have found itself trying to fill a $202,000 hole in its budget, Ness said.

"That money has already been spent," Ness said. "There would have been no time to react."

About the only option the city would have had was to take the money from its reserves, which would have jeopardized the city's bond rating, Ness said.

Ness added that pulling back the promised LGA money two weeks before the end of the year would have been "almost punitive."

Ness said that he and other rural mayors hope that the Legislature can now come up with a more fair and equitable way of balancing the budget instead of going after LGA, which Ness described as a "low hanging fruit" that Pawlenty has picked before.

Ness credited Pawlenty for working with the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities and realizing the harsh realities that small cities face.

"He listened to our concerns and he acted accordingly," Ness said.