Assembly Finance Committee funds wish list

Additional state funding will allow Juneau to cover the needs of local non-profits, increase child care options, and promote the town as a research center and great place to relocate.

The Assembly Finance Committee on Wednesday added $447,000 dollars to the budget for fiscal years 2013 / 14. Among other things, the money will go to social service organizations, a school district auditorium manager, and special programs for the Juneau Economic Development Council.

Finance Committee Chair Karen Crane says the city has an additional $2.8 million to spend, thanks to a change in the state law that sets the amount local governments can spend on schools.

“We were contributing 4 mills which was the highest level that you could put money into the school district. The legislature made a change at the last where you can only put in 2.65 (mills), so that means that we have 2 million dollars that would have gone into the school district that doesn’t at the moment,” she explained. “Now the school district isn’t losing that 2 million dollars; the state now puts that money in.”

Along with an increase in municipal revenue sharing, Juneau ended up with more than two-point 8 million dollars not planned for when city officials began building the two-year budget.

It means four social service programs not funded through the Social Services Advisory Board process will get grants after all, including Hospice and Homecare.

The Finance Committee approved $143,000 for the HEARTS Initiative, aimed at increasing child care options in the capital city.

HEARTS stands for Hiring, Educating and Retaining Teaching Staff. It will offer monetary incentives to providers who earn early childhood credentials, also reimburse them for certain training required for state licensing, and waive some CBJ taxes and fees for licensed child care businesses.

The Juneau Economic Development Council will get an additional $75,000 dollars for several special programs.

One will help develop the capital city as a research and education center. That’s also a priority of the Assembly for this year.

The funds will promote downtown revitalization, target marketing materials toward businesses that might relocate here, and promote Juneau as a mining center.

All nine members of the Assembly sit on the Finance Committee. Crane says they will meet next week to determine what to do with the rest of the additional funds.

But she says it’s important to remember the effort the city has put into balancing the new budget.

“Everybody thinks ‘oh you’ve got 2 million dollars more,’ but they forget that we cut 4 point 5 million out of this year’s budget, had to raise the property tax a bit, too, and use some one time money — we had some money in sewer accounts that don’t have projects waiting for them,” she said. “So we used that million dollars, we increased property tax and we cut 4 point 5 million. So it’s not like we have two million extra floating out there for everybody’s wish list.

Crane says some of the additional funds should go into the city’s reserve account.

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