"Somebody has to keep an eye on you people."
That was Mark Korin's
response, before he
was elected to the Oak Grove City Council
, when asked why he
was sitting in on so many council meetings.
And that is still his attitude about city government now that he's mayor.
Oak Grove is a 36-square-mile city located west of East Bethel.
It has a population of about 8,000.
Korin served several years on the Oak Grove Park Board and Planning Commission, including 12 years as the Planning Commission chair.
But when he
spoke to the Lakes Area Business Association
in Forest Lake on Wednesday, Sept. 25, the main topic was his
cost-cutting accomplishments as mayor.
Korin was elected to the City Council in 2008 and became mayor in 2011.
At that time Oak Grove had a city administrator, finance director and two full-time building officials, he said; double-digit increases had left the city with a $3.2 million budget.
In the three years he's
been mayor, things have changed.
Now one person shares the duties of city manager and city planner.
The building department has been eliminated.
The finance director is gone and payroll is outsourced.
The city levy has been reduced by 26 percent and $1.2 million.
visited Forest Lake to tell members of the Lakes Area Business Association
how these reductions were accomplished.
After the city administrator resigned, Korin
volunteered to serve as both mayor and administrator.
worked about three days a week for the city for almost a year.
According to media reports, Korin
asked for $1,500 per month for this service.
continued to receive just the mayor salary, $6,000 a year, plus $1,300 for serving on the Economic Development Authority.
"I felt compelled to bring my values as a business owner to the city," he said.
"I took on the duties of administrator until we could figure out what was needed and the economy turned around."
Korin, a design engineer, is founder and president of DepotStar, an engineering and manufacturing services provider.
He worked at Medtronic before running his own company.
had experienced a downturn in his
business and had to lay off employees.
At the peak he
had 54 employees, he
said, but after a major client left, that number dropped for a while to just 12.
But when he
made efforts to reduce city staff, he
met with resistance.
The city administrator, who was paid $99,000 per year plus benefits, disagreed that cuts were needed.
"Staff did a lot to justify their job to keep from getting laid off," he
"The city administrator brought me a Forbes magazine with a cover that said 'Recession over, recovery in six months.' I still have it," he said.
After the administrator quit, a search firm wanted $20,000 to help find a new administrator, Korin said, and told him it would cost the city $160,000 per year to hire someone qualified.
the best decision I ever made for my city," Korin
was working 50 to 60 hours a week and said she
needed additional staff," Korin
An accounting firm bid $50,000 to do the job in four days a month.
said, the accounting firm employee told him, "I don't know what I'm going to do on that fourth day," as the workload did not require that much time.
Another point of contention between Korin
and city staff was the amount of reserve cash.
The city had $12 million in the bank but was increasing the levy, he
"We need to spend all this," he
was told, "and if we don't spend all that plus more, we can't raise taxes next year."
To save money for law enforcement, Korin
took on the county
Oak Grove contracts for police coverage through Anoka County.
The outgoing sheriff, he
said, told Oak Grove that the city needed to increase from 16 hours per day to 24-hour police coverage, at a cost of about $700,000.
resisted, saying crime was down and Oak Grove residents should not pay more just to offset budgetary issues in the county
With East Bethel and Ham Lake, Oak Grove considered creating an alternate system for police protection.
In the end the Anoka County contract was maintained, but for 20 hours a day.
The cost was less than $500,000.
"In business, we have to be held accountable," Korin
In government, "I've never seen a bigger shell game in my whole life."
Forest Lake case
sees many parallels between the cities of Oak Grove and Forest Lake
and urged members of LABA
to become even more involved in city issues.
Tags:cost of city government, featured, Lakes Area Business Association, Mark Korin