The Juneau Assembly is willing to raise property taxes, but not layoff employees, in order to balance the city’s budget.
Meeting as the Finance Committee last night (Tuesday), the Assembly directed the city administration to close a two-year estimated shortfall of $4.4-million dollars with some combination of the following:
- Operational cuts that do not include layoffs.
- A mill rate increase that keeps the total rate under 11 mills.
- And one-time money not to exceed $1-million dollars.
The order came after an executive session that lasted more than an hour, where City Manager Rod Swope discussed specific positions he would eliminate if the Assembly gave him the okay to use layoffs and reductions to services to balance the budget.
The $4.4-million dollar estimated shortfall is what remains of a $7.5-million dollar gap projected earlier this year. To arrive at the new number, Swope and manager-in-waiting Kim Kiefer identified $4.8-million in potential savings, as well as likely spending increases.
Kiefer says most of the proposed savings are from holding positions open and reduced spending across all city departments. She says about $1.5-million dollars in additional cuts will be avoided thanks to savings carried over from this year’s budget. But she warned the public is already seeing reduced services as a result.
The Finance Committee, which includes every member of the Assembly, will start a thorough review of the manager’s budget proposal next month. The final spending plan must be approved at a regular Assembly meeting by June 15th.
- "Her focus on education, her focus on examining our city budget at a really deep level, not just a broad stroke policy level, but getting into the line items – I think that’s a really valuable for assembly members to go after the budget work," said Deputy Mayor Jesse Kiehl.
- "I just think that the manager’s job is the juggler of so many different things. I think it’s just going to be fun. I don’t think it’s going to be easy," Rorie Watt said.
- "Juneau to Minneapolis for $361. New York for $365, which is insane. The fares dropped by $100 to $200 overnight. And adjusted for inflation, really, Juneau has never ever seen these exceptional rates," said travel analyst Scott McMurren.
- The facts of what happened aren't clear yet. The body is on its way to Anchorage for autopsy, and state investigators were Barrow-bound.