Juneau preps for city budget deficit

Municipal Way Building sign

The CBJ Finance Department is headquartered in the Municipal Way Building behind City Hall. (Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO)

The City and Borough of Juneau has released early numbers for next year’s $330 million budget and the outlook isn’t rosy.

Finance Director Bob Bartholomew said revenue hasn’t kept pace with spending.

“For the general government departments we’re projecting a $1.2 million shortfall where expenditures exceed sustainable revenues,” Bartholomew said.

School district funding also complicates the picture. A change in the state’s funding formula for schools and projected enrollment numbers means the overall funding gap will likely widen.

“When you combine the two, we’re looking at about a $2.2 million shortfall,” he said. “Those are the preliminary numbers and we hope to fine-tune it before we present the full budget April 5th.”

These early numbers assume no change in state funding levels. But with Alaska’s fiscal crisis that could change.

That’s something local governments are watching closely.

“If the hammer really falls from the state, we want to be organized for that,” City Manager Rorie Watt said. “If the state solves its fiscal plan — which I really hope they do and I think they can do — then I think we’ve got much more moderated touch on our budget.”

The public has also weighed in. The city has surveyed residents for the most popular non-essential services. Some 169 people completed surveys. Capital Transit bus services and the public library floated to the top. But the Mount Jumbo Gymnasium, Juneau-Douglas City Museum and Eagle Valley Center ranked toward the bottom.

It will be up to the Juneau Assembly to decide what may have to be cut. That process will play out at Finance Committee meetings scheduled each Wednesday from April 5 until the budget is finalized.

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