The Juneau Assembly formally introduced the city’s biennial budget proposal at a special meeting last night (Wednesday), kicking off a two-month process of hearings and department presentations before the spending plan is officially adopted.
KTOO’s Casey Kelly has more.
The budget proposal is the first submitted by new City Manager Kim Kiefer, previously the deputy city manager. It covers the next two fiscal years – FY 2013 starting in July and FY14 starting one year later.
In her presentation to the Assembly Finance Committee, Kiefer said the spending plan is balanced – meaning expenditures match projected revenue. For FY13 it totals roughly $319-million – about a two percent drop in spending from this year.
Six months ago, the city was facing a projected shortfall of more than $7-million over the next two years. Kiefer and former City Manager Rod Swope identified about $4-million in cuts, but were still left with a shortfall of about $4.4-million.
Last month, the Assembly directed the Manager’s office not to use layoffs or new cuts to services to close the gap. Kiefer says city departments have already started cutting operating expenses.
“A number of the directors took furlough over this year, varying from a few days to a couple of weeks, including the past city manager and the current city manager,” said Kiefer. “There were reductions in hours of service for the libraries; for the pools, we’ll be closing earlier during the weeks. There were reductions in advertising, in office supplies, those kinds of things.”
She says the proposed budget also calls for open positions to be left vacant across a variety of city departments.
“In addition to that we had some positions that we already had kept open from the prior two years,” Kiefer said. “So, we probably are looking at more like 25 people, bodies that are being impacted by this budget.”
Kiefer says she’ll ask the Assembly to increase fees for city services, such as Capital Transit. She says the Parks and Recreation Department has already increased some facility rental rates.
“Treadwell Arena, Centennial Hall had increases,” She said. “They (parks and rec) adjusted their revenue projections for the parking structures.”
The budget plan calls for a .4 mill increase to the property tax mill levy during the upcoming fiscal year, to 10.95 total mills. The Auke Bay School bond measure approved by voters last fall will increase the levy by .06 mills. But the additional .34 mill increase will go toward city operations.
Looking ahead to FY 14, Kiefer said she hopes for more flexibility with the mill rate, which is approved by the Assembly annually.
“We believe that when we get to ’14 we’ll be able to be lower than that from an operational standpoint, because we will continue to have savings,” Kiefer said. “And we’re hopeful that we really, truly are on the upswing of where we’ve been.”
The final piece of the puzzle that allowed Kiefer to balance the budget was the Assembly’s authorization of using $1-million in one-time money from the city’s water and sewer expansion fund.
“The Switzer area municipal land development CIP and the West Juneau-North Douglas connection were both reduced by a half a million dollars each,” she said. “So, that’s what makes up that million dollars that you authorized us to use.”
Following Kiefer’s presentation to the Finance Committee, the Assembly held a special meeting where the city and school district budget ordinances were introduced, along with an ordinance setting the FY13 mill levy.
The Finance Committee will be taking a closer look at individual pieces of the budget during meetings throughout April and May. That starts next week with presentations on the school district budget, capital projects, and marine passenger fee recommendations.
The Assembly must adopt the budget no later than June 15th.