Thief River Falls mayor leads coalition asking legislators to address local government aid, child care – Grand Forks Herald


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THIEF RIVER FALLS – As president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, Thief River Falls Mayor Brian Holmer is leading the coalition in asking legislators to address issues like local government aid, child care and housing in the 2023 legislative session.

On Monday, Holmer and other Greater Minnesota mayors and city administrators outlined a list of asks for lawmakers deciding how to use the state’s $17.6 billion surplus during a Zoom press conference. The list includes increases in LGA spending, additional funding for grant programs that support child care providers and more money for housing development funds.

Bradley Peterson, CGMC executive director, said securing additional funding for LGA is the CGMC’s top legislative priority. In Minnesota, LGA serves as general purpose aid for city expenditures, and can also be used for property tax relief.

“LGA is of crucial importance to cities across the state, large and small,” said Peterson. “It really is the foundation upon which a lot of our cities’ success is built in terms of being able to provide the kind of infrastructure and services that businesses and residents rely on.”

The CGMC hopes to see a $105 million increase in LGA, taking into account inflation and population growth. The coalition is also asking for an update to the LGA formula to better serve Greater Minnesota cities.

For Thief River Falls, LGA makes up 10% of the city’s annual budget, said Holmer.

“Local Government Aid means everything to the health of Greater Minnesota cities,” said Holmer. “It means being able to afford basic services to our residents like police, fire, sidewalks, well maintained streets, and enables us to provide the kind of quality of life that our residents deserve with amenities like parks, libraries, swimming pools and arenas.”

In Thief River Falls, LGA goes toward infrastructure needed to support the economic growth in the city spurred by businesses like Arctic Cat and DigiKey, said Holmer.

“If we didn’t have it, our property taxes would have to increase in order to provide the services our residents and businesses rely on,” said Holmer.

To support the rural workforce, CGMC is also prioritizing programs that increase child care and housing availability.

Across the state, more than 40,000 more child care spots are needed, said Peterson. Thief River Falls alone needs 283 more child care spots, said Holmer. While a

recent expansion at DigiKey

generated 1,000 new jobs in Thief River Falls, the lack of available child care and housing is a barrier for people to work in the community.

“This is on top of 3,600 jobs at DigiKey right now,” said Holmer. “Without quality, affordable childcare or housing, the success of major expansion like the DigiKey project underscores the city’s challenges.”

To address needs for child care and housing in Greater Minnesota, the CGMC is asking the legislature for:

  • $20 million for the Greater Minnesota Child Care Facilities Capital Grant Program, to establish or upgrade child care facilities in Greater Minnesota
  • $10 million for Department of Employment and Economic Development Child Care Economic Development Grant Program, which awards grants to be used to implement solutions to reduce the child care shortage in Minnesota
  • $6 million for the six Minnesota Initiative Foundations, regional foundations intended to strengthen economies of Greater Minnesota, to expand child care provider and community support programs
  • $10 million for grants to support public infrastructure related to housing development
  • $20 million for the Greater Minnesota Workforce Housing Development Fund, a competitive funding program to build market rate residential rental properties in communities with a demand for workforce rental housing

Other legislative priorities of the CGMC include securing funding for water and wastewater infrastructure and changing the duty disability claim process to reduce its financial burden on local governments.

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