No property tax increase for Juneau thanks to federal funds and a brighter financial outlook

Juneau’s cruise ship docks are empty on April 23, 2020. The cruise ship season was supposed to begin, but sailings have been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Jennifer Pemberton / KTOO)

The Juneau Assembly is nearing the end of its annual budget process with a notably brighter outlook than the one it started with. 

On Wednesday, the Assembly Finance Committee voted 8-1 to keep property taxes the same as last year. An earlier proposal would have raised taxes to offset the financial impacts of the pandemic. 

Finance Director Jeff Rogers said Thursday that when the budget was first introduced in April, the city faced a potential $30 to $35 million revenue shortfall and uncertainty over how much state and federal assistance it would receive. 

“Some of those items got worse, some got better,” Rogers said. “But the one thing that really did come through for the community and for the assembly was the allocation of federal CARES Act funding in the amount of $53 million.”

It’s still not completely clear what all of that money can be spent on. So for now, the Assembly has allocated only $17 million of Juneau’s CARES Act funding until it’s confident that it can use the money to replace lost revenue.

It also voted Wednesday to defer a variety of city maintenance projects for the time being, as well as the planned improvement project at the Augustus Brown Pool. 

Rogers said the Assembly could come back to some of those projects later once it has a clearer financial picture. 

“The budget process continues,” he said. “It will continue for the next many months as the assembly wrestles with how to spend federal funding, the degree to which that federal funding can replace really significant revenue shortfalls here and the degree to which they might want to go back and reverse or change decisions they’ve already made.”

The Assembly is on track to finalize the budget at its June 8 meeting, a week before the city’s June 15 deadline.

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