It's a shame the city of Minneota was ultimately forced to make one of those tough decisions we hear so much about that are caused by tight budgets, so common these days among today small towns and communities.
Minneota's tough one came Monday night when the city council there voted to approve cutting one full-time police officer position, leaving it with one full-time position and one part-time position, or 20 hours per week. Budget reductions stemming from less money coming in from the state are painful and ultimately lead to decisions like this, decisions that can divide a community.
We hope that doesn't happen in Minneota, and we hope this decision doesn't turn out to be a regrettable one.
These decisions are not easy ones to make, but most cities have been painted into a corner when it comes to balancing their budgets. Don't be at all surprised if Minneota isn't the last small town to have to make a call like this. Our elected officials in St. Paul need to find a way to protect cities in their district from having to make these decisions when the next round of budget talks begins.
Minneota City Administrator Sarah Friesen said Wednesday that past councils have looked into the possibility of trimming the force. She said the decision made Monday did not come lightly. This time around, a police committee looked at the options, which included eliminating the police force altogether, keeping the status quo, or cutting back the second full-time position to 20 hours per week. Ultimately, the committee recommended to the council either keeping the force as is or making the cut.
"It's all part of looking at where we can pare back on expenses knowing that state revenue is on a continual decline," Friesen said. "We have declining monies coming from the state and we're trying to figure out how we can have a budget that isn't balanced by increasing taxes on our residents."
Still, Friesen is well aware of the importance of public safety, even in a rural, peaceful town.
"It's a valid concern," she said, "and we'll keep a watchful eye on it and see if there is a big increase in crime or other problems. The city council will keep abreast of that for sure."
We empathize with the residents of Minneota - adults and kids alike - what's left of the police force, and with the council members as well, whose charge it is to lead the city in both prosperous and difficult times. More often than not, difficult times like these lead to difficult, and unpopular, decisions.