NEW ULM - New Ulm City Council candidate Charles Schmitz is emphasizing a practical and balanced approach to the city budget to maintain the current quality of city services in his run for the councilor at-large seat.
Schmitz said the looming threat of further cuts to Local Government Aid, which comprises a sizable portion of the City's funding, will be the biggest issue for New Ulm in the next four years.
"We've had to make so many adjustments to the city budget because of LGA cuts. It's getting to the point where we can't adjust without cutting major things like street reconstruction or snow removal," said Schmitz.
He said the City could continue to lobby for the LGA funding to be more stable, but he doubted more could be achieved. H added that the City could not give up relying on LGA altogether because that could result in losing major services and in higher risks of property tax increases. He said the only way this approach could work would be if a new funding source of essentially the same amount could be found.
Schmitz said the focus instead had to be on stabilizing the budget and completely holding the line on not spending on new elements by the City. He said the City was hard working enough to be able to weather the situation, and that it only had to hold out until the economy improved.
"[Other candidates] have talked about wanting to build a water park, which I can appreciate. But, we don't have anywhere near the ability to take on new expenses like that," said Schmitz. "We have to have our focus on not trying to tackle anything new until we can maintain what we have."
Regarding the City's subsidies to programs like the New Ulm Battery, which may face cuts in the coming budget, Schmitz said he wanted to help significant local programs like the Battery that have trouble funding themselves. However, he said he sees the subsidies eventually ending altogether because of budget needs. He said that if none of the current subsidies had existed to begin with, he would oppose ever starting any subsidies.
When asked whether the Council had any role in advocacy for topics beyond city specific-issues, Schmitz said he only supported advocacy on issues vital to the City, such as Highway 14. He said he opposed the City ever getting involved in social issues.
On the topic of the controversy around the recently approved pay raise for members of the Council, Schmitz said he still stands by approving the raise. But, he said he did not necessarily strongly support the Council getting paid more. He explained that he felt it was something that had been needed for a while and that it had to be passed in an election year. He said that it was unfortunate timing that it had to be done. He said he also did not consider it the Council members giving themselves a raise because the election made it impossible to know for sure who would be in the seats next year.
Finally, Schmitz was asked what major change he would make to New Ulm if he had the complete means and funds to accomplish it. Schmitz said he would complete a complete reconstruction of all the City's sewer and water piping infrastructure. He said it was an important problem that was looming as something the City would be forced to address a few years into the future.
Schmitz concluded by comparing himself to his opponent Ron Larsen. He said that he brought experience from his four years one the Council and a willingness to make strong stands on important issues. He said that a willingness to take the charge and the responsibility on important city issues was the key to properly filling the position.
Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.