Kiefer offers plan for addressing Juneau’s budget shortfall

Kim Kiefer

City Manager Kim Kiefer listens as members of the Juneau Assembly discuss her budget proposal. (Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO)

City Manager Kim Kiefer wants to balance Juneau’s budget with a combination of savings, spending reductions and property tax increases.

With the city facing a projected $12 million shortfall, Kiefer last night presented her proposed budget for the next two fiscal years beginning in July. In the first year, the spending plan would be about $321 million, down 0.4 percent from this year. It would be reduced even more the following year, to nearly $317 million.

That amount covers everything from general government operations to the Juneau School District to city-owned enterprises like Bartlett Regional Hospital and Eaglecrest Ski Area.

Kiefer says coming up with the final budget will be a fluid process.

“But this right now as of tonight, with the scenario in front of you, we are providing a balanced budget,” she said. “It’s a place for us to start the discussions that we’ll have over the next 8-10 weeks.”

Kiefer’s plan calls for $3.6 million in cuts to programs and services over the next two years. That includes laying off as many as 11 full-time employees and eliminating 12 already vacant positions. Bus service and library hours would be reduced, and two major Parks and Recreation facilities would close. As reported on Wednesday, one of those would be the Augustus Brown Swimming Pool downtown. The other would be Mt. Jumbo Gym in Douglas.

The proposed property tax increase would raise about $3.8 million in additional revenue over two years. Finance Director Bob Bartholomew said the increase on a $300,000 home would be about $132 a year.

The plan also calls for using about $4.4 million not spent in previous years to balance the budget in upcoming years, as well as $1.6 million from the city’s budget reserve and $1 million currently earmarked for capital projects.

In perhaps a preview of what’s to come during the assembly’s budget meetings, Assemblyman Randy Wanamaker said there are other ways to balance the budget.

“And that is to reduce spending even further, so that you don’t need a mill rate increase for the operational budget, and you don’t need to tap into the budget reserve,” Wanamaker said.

Assemblywoman Kate Troll said she wants to look at capital projects slated for funding in the coming year to see if the money for any of them can be tapped to help fund general government operations. The manager’s plan only calls for doing that in the second year of the proposed budget.

“When I was just glancing through the list – mind you I didn’t have the expertise of the public works committee or the Engineering Department or anything like that – but I kinda go, ‘Is this really necessary? Is this necessary?’ And my question marks total up to $1.5 million,” Troll said.

The final budget is also dependent on a number of factors outside the city’s control. Among them, state funding for education and how much the Alaska Legislature wants municipalities to contribute toward paying down the state’s Public Employee Retirement System debt.

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