No agreement on capital project propositions

By June 29, 2012Local Government
Karen Crane

Assembly Finance Committee Chair Karen Crane studies a list of proposed capital projects Thursday night. The commitee was unable to finalize the list expected to go to voters this fall. It will meet again Monday. (Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO)

The Juneau Assembly still has no agreement on which projects to include in two financing measures likely to be sent to voters this fall.

Between a proposed extension of the city’s temporary 1-percent sales tax and a bond proposition, the Assembly could have nearly $60-million to spend — with voter approval, of course. But city departments and one nonprofit have submitted more than $70-million in requests.

After chipping away at the list somewhat last night, the Assembly Finance Committee will continue the discussion Monday, hopefully with a fresh set of eyes. KTOO’s Casey Kelly has more.

The assembly is in broad agreement with Mayor Bruce Botelho’s proposal to put some of the projects into a bond proposition. The move would allow more items to be included in the sales tax list, and provide immediate funding for projects in the bond package.

The mayor’s proposal includes setting aside $10-million from the sales tax extension to pay down debt service on the bonds. That would give the assembly at least five years before it has to look at raising property taxes. In the meantime, Botelho says some of the city’s other bond debts should come off the books.

“So people would not see any increase in their mill rate,” Botelho says.

Still to be decided is which projects should be included in the bond proposition and which should go into the sales tax measure. Botelho wants to use bonds for a “transportation package,” including items for the airport, docks and harbors, and Capital Transit.

But assembly member Mary Becker says the tax measure should fund “needs,” such as building maintenance, and projects that improve the health and safety of residents. Becker says so-called “wants,” such as funding for a new Mendenhall Valley library, should go into the bond package.

“If in fact the public wants the library, and they want JACC to be expanded, and they want Eaglecrest to have the other good things, those are the goodies as far as I’m concerned,” Becker says. “They’re kind of in the quality of life, but not in the necessities of life.”

With no consensus on the issue, Finance Committee chair Karen Crane tried to focus discussion on specific requests. She asked each member to briefly weigh in on whether they support the full amount, partial funding, or no money for each request, regardless of which package it ends up in.

After going through the entire list and spending another hour trying to narrow it down even further with the items where there was agreement, Crane finally suggested continuing the meeting on Monday.

“It would also give members additional time to look at the ideas that have been discussed this evening concerning the bond issue,” Crane says.

At this point, most of the funding requests are still on the table. The only certainty is that the final list must go to the full assembly for introduction by July 16th. That’s so it can come up for final action in August, giving the city clerk’s office enough time to prepare the propositions for the October 2nd municipal election.

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