NEW ULM - New Ulm City Council candidate Les Schultz said he wants to make working on New Ulm's utility rates his focus if he is reelected in his run for Ward 3.
Schultz said the City of New Ulm and the Council need to have a new focus on working closely with the New Ulm Public Utilities to find ways to drive down utility costs. He said that most people do not realize how little control the Council has over utilities in New Ulm's charter. He said that the change is going to require the organizations wanting to work together to produce a targeted change.
WHen asked later about what radical change he would make to New Ulm if he had means to do it, Schultz said he would redraft the city charter to put the Public Utilities under the direct control of the Council. He said the he would want this change because it would eliminate an extra commission while hopefully giving a better ability to work on utilities based on the needs of the city.
Schultz also said that growing the number young families that settle in New Ulm would be a major issue for the city's future. He said that bringing in more jobs was important and helped with that goal, but it was a lesser issue due to New Ulm's four percent unemployment being dramatically lower than the rest of the country.
He said that uncertainty over Local Government Aid funding from the state was also a big city-wide issue. He said the amount of the budget LGA comprises was too large to give it up without losing important services. He said the City has to instead emphasize working with lawmakers to find a way modify it into a more consistent or guaranteed form.
When asked what City services he would retain in the face of the City facing a catastrophic situation where it lost half of its usual funding, Schultz said that maintaining emergency departments like Fire and Police were the most important. He said that he would also keep departments like Streets and Park and Recreations to maintain the quality of life in New Ulm. Beyond that, he said he would keep administration so that the portions of city government New Ulm would have left could be run effectively.
Regarding the City's subsidies to local organizations, which may face cuts this budget, Schultz said he supports the idea of the City subsidizing local programs when it has the ability to. He said that in tough budget situations, the City has to parse the subsidies down to the basics and programs that need the City to keep going, like the New Ulm Battery. He said the ideal situation is to work with the organizations to make them self sufficient, with City funding not being completely required for their budgets. He said this would allow the City to help out where it can, but also allow the City to withhold funding for a two or three years on occasions in during tough economic times.
Schultz also addressed his support for the recently approved pay raise to members of the Council. He said that he thought it was acceptable to bring to bring New Ulm in line with other similar cities since the raise was not extremely large.
"The City surveyed other city councils with our type of government, we were the lowest. We are still at the bottom [of pay] with cities like us, just barely over 50 percent of what they make," said Schultz, "If you want to keep qualified people in these positions, you have to maintain with the minimal salary range there is with this position."
Schultz concluded by explaining how he feels he compares to his opponent Chuck Hanson. Schultz said that when he was elected to office as a write-in, he took the initiative to learn how all the City departments operated as much as possible.
He also said he differed from Hanson because he had the schedule and flexibility to attend all Council meetings and commissions meetings that met at times like noon. Hanson has said that his own work schedule is flexible enough to attend all City Council meetings.
Finally, Schultz said he feels he has strong accomplishments because he is willing to talk tough issues and get them solved. He pointed finally getting the new entrance signs finished at 19 years and taking on issues like the Smokes 4 Less store, which is no longer in town.