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Mayor Norton responds to Rochester Business Coalition's plea to help local businesses

Last week the Rochester Business Coalition called on the city and county to adjust their budgets for 2021; on Monday Mayor Kim Norton detailed the city's decision to move forward with its current version.

Posted: Jan 18, 2021 5:52 PM
Updated: Jan 18, 2021 7:46 PM

ROCHESTER, Minn. - The city of Rochester is responding to a local business coalition's plea to help keep small businesses afloat.

Last week the Rochester Business Coalition called on the city and county to adjust their budgets for 2021; on Monday Mayor Kim Norton detailed the city's decision to move forward with its current version.

Norton said the city council took action to reduce the 2020 city expenditures and immediately implemented a hiring freeze for all but essential positions, reduced overtime, made cut of nearly $25 million, limited travel and training among many other cuts.

For 2021 she says work was done to adopt a budget that is $101 million less than last years with a decreased tax rate of 7%.

Norton does say she appreciates any community comment and encourages working together to strengthen Rochester.

She explained, "We all sympathize and feel horrible for the impact that COVID and the pandemic has had on our businesses and it's not falling on deaf ears. The city council has been very responsive from the very beginning and we've tried to be as responsive as we can with the community throughout this whole year now, very close to a year, but we also have a budget and expectations for the community as a whole that we have to fulfill."

Norton says the city council is already beginning work on the 2022 budget and will continue to focus on providing core city services the community needs.

She also says she's continuing to ask for more grants to support local businesses on the state and federal level.

You can find the full response to the coalition's plea below:

Dear Mr. Haley,

Thank you so much for your letter dated January 14th, 2021 outlining your concerns as they relate to the impact of the covid19 pandemic. I know I can speak on behalf of all of us is sharing our concern and sympathy for the difficult situation you and so many other businesses are facing at this difficult time. My family owned (recently sold) a small business and I watched/heard my father, and grandfather before him, struggle to assure that all their employees were kept and paid even during the direst of recessions – I can attest to many lost nights of sleep and tablets of Maalox consumed. The pandemic has caused negative financial impacts across the globe and we are not immune here in MedCity. It’s painful and we have tried to be proactive in our approach with very limited funds to offer assistance and relief, especially to our small businesses.

I do want you to know, that the City has made multiple contacts with our state and federal leaders to encourage financial support from the start and ongoing. Just last week I signed onto a letter was sent to the incoming administration at the federal level asking for immediate relief directing funds to the local level with a focus on our struggling small business sector.

From the start of the pandemic, the city and multiple business sector leaders have met to find ways to deliver support to the community and businesses. The City Council voted almost immediately to utilize the funds we held in reserve to be deployed out into the community in the form of loans and grants – this was used to supplement the funding of the federal government that was released. In the months that have followed, we took many actions to assure CARESAct funds were delivered quickly and relied on our business partners to assure that they went where they were needed most.

I will recap here some of the actions the City Council took to reduce the 2020 City expenditures which was needed due to our own falling revenues. We immediately implemented a hiring freeze for all but essential positons; reduced overtime; make cuts of nearly $25M in that budget, limited travel and training; reduced planned fee increases and some current fees; provided free parking and transit; and have continued to try to continue making important infrastructure investments to keep people working.

More recently as the City Council prepared and approved the 2021 budget, work was done to adopt a budget that was $101M less than 2020 – a budget that decreased the tax rate by 7% (a historically low level even when factoring in the voter approved park funding). This was done with care and concern that the City be able to continue to provide the essential services the community expects: public safety (police and fire) clean water and sewage management, road and bridge safety and infrastructure, electricity to homes and businesses, heavily pared down transportation services, park department services (without summer staff) at a time when park usage is significantly increased. It’s worth noting that the 2021 budget was approved without increasing property taxes (zero % increase), electric rates, water rates, transit rates, or parking rates.

The Council and community have high expectations of the services we deliver and our lean city staff make all of that happen every day. During the pandemic, many were reassigned to duties far outside their daily roles such as manage a covid hotline taking over 4000 calls, staff the homeless shelter and more. As the continued impact of covid negatively affects your business, so too does it affect the city budget and we will closely monitor the budget to ensure revenues are coming in as estimated...if the Council does have to make additional reductions, there will need to be a corresponding discussion on what services are we reducing/eliminating.

The city staff are beginning their work on the 2022 budget and they will continue to focus on providing the core city services you need and expect. The work cannot be done without the staff to do it, just as happens in your own business, and we will continue to make sure we work efficiently within appropriate staffing ratios to get the work done to the community’s expectations. The CIP and DMC project funds cannot be re-deployed to other departments, as they are dedicated funds and so, perhaps unlike other cities, we will be able to continue to make improvements and grow even in these difficult times. I understand that without that understanding, the development (both private and public) are mistakenly thought of as taking money from other needs. I do hope you’ll sit down with someone to gain a deeper understanding of the limitations of CIP and DMC funds if you don’t have the information you need right now – they will be happy to provide it.

I’ll continue to advocate for our small businesses and I know the City Council and our Rochester Ready Coalition will continue to help move us out of the recession in a manner that positions as many businesses as possible for a successful future. These are difficult times and I’m very sorry for the struggles everyone has had to endure – we are on our way out of this pandemic, so please help us by working to find the most appropriate solutions for the coming months and years so we can move forward together.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 926931

Reported Deaths: 9740
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1809132056
Ramsey749811054
Dakota68505591
Anoka64961589
Washington41119367
Stearns34021287
St. Louis29939416
Scott26281188
Wright26260226
Olmsted22677131
Sherburne19206130
Carver1687671
Clay12219108
Blue Earth1162171
Rice11578139
Crow Wing11318124
Chisago1005281
Kandiyohi9913108
Otter Tail9908130
Benton9174128
Beltrami8249100
Goodhue822699
Douglas7967101
Itasca779999
Mower740049
McLeod723384
Winona715158
Isanti711085
Steele695034
Morrison678681
Becker631675
Polk608987
Freeborn569947
Carlton552577
Mille Lacs539479
Lyon532961
Nicollet528561
Nobles527954
Pine521143
Cass505255
Todd496443
Brown473661
Le Sueur464736
Meeker437960
Martin391344
Waseca381433
Wabasha380110
Dodge366412
Hubbard357649
Roseau320532
Fillmore310115
Wadena306040
Redwood283845
Houston275317
Renville271651
Faribault261835
Sibley256017
Pennington254830
Kanabec254437
Cottonwood232933
Aitkin225052
Chippewa222043
Pope209910
Watonwan201121
Yellow Medicine189925
Koochiching179225
Rock178429
Swift174124
Stevens170211
Jackson162016
Clearwater159421
Marshall154822
Murray152911
Pipestone150929
Lake134124
Lac qui Parle124425
Wilkin122016
Mahnomen108314
Norman10579
Grant102410
Big Stone9585
Lincoln8915
Kittson74623
Red Lake71810
Traverse6086
Unassigned563124
Lake of the Woods5285
Cook3141

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 532160

Reported Deaths: 7379
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk81677809
Linn32838430
Scott27126295
Black Hawk22334382
Woodbury20736263
Johnson20150108
Dubuque18996243
Pottawattamie16215214
Dallas15573115
Story1398059
Warren8637107
Cerro Gordo8141125
Clinton7928115
Webster7419124
Des Moines7153106
Marshall675494
Muscatine6717117
Wapello6546145
Unassigned64520
Jasper630591
Sioux622477
Lee5977106
Marion567697
Buena Vista503449
Plymouth493388
Henry427155
Benton414760
Jones413564
Bremer403873
Boone397042
Washington395464
Carroll373355
Mahaska372366
Crawford355647
Jackson324047
Dickinson317555
Buchanan312743
Delaware303255
Clay297636
Kossuth293477
Fayette290356
Hardin289253
Tama282878
Page276133
Wright270050
Cedar269527
Winneshiek267744
Hamilton262757
Floyd261049
Clayton252360
Poweshiek242043
Harrison240979
Madison237425
Butler237346
Cass235667
Iowa234336
Jefferson228544
Mills225330
Hancock222840
Winnebago222339
Cherokee217347
Appanoose210157
Lyon209842
Allamakee209456
Calhoun199519
Shelby199542
Union197141
Humboldt188231
Franklin188031
Grundy186137
Chickasaw184522
Mitchell184343
Emmet180146
Louisa178653
Sac175626
Guthrie169338
Clarke163629
Montgomery163146
Keokuk152639
Palo Alto152332
Howard150624
Monroe144340
Ida134141
Greene128818
Davis126825
Lucas126127
Monona124940
Worth12309
Pocahontas122125
Adair118239
Osceola105718
Decatur104813
Taylor100914
Fremont98913
Van Buren95922
Wayne86125
Ringgold78429
Audubon77617
Adams5869
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