Juneau Assembly finishes budget, commits $3.5M in local business grants

Update | 12:50 a.m. Tuesday

The Juneau Assembly finished its work on the annual operating budget, capital budget and property tax rates Monday night. It also committed millions of dollars of CARES Act relief money.

As proposed, the city’s operating budget would authorize spending almost $386 million in the year that begins July 1.

The capital budget authorizes $34.5 million of spending. That’s down almost 8%. The project list mostly covers work on city infrastructure, including sewer and water lines, streets, and building maintenance.

City Manager Rorie Watt’s original budget proposal called for a significant property tax hike. But property tax rates will remain the same. Instead, budget cuts plus millions in federal CARES Act money will make up for tax revenue that won’t come in because of the pandemic.

Former Juneau Assembly member Norton Gregory testified with his appreciation.

“I want to thank you for keeping our property tax mill rate right where it’s at. Thank you,” he said.

He also urged the Assembly to avoid incurring debt, and to shift to paying for projects with saved up cash instead.

The Assembly also decided to put up to $3.5 million in grants to local businesses with CARES Act money. The city’s Economic Stabilization Task Force developed the program. Businesses impacted by the pandemic will be eligible for up to $33,000.

They’re also considering two more rounds of local business grants worth up to $8.5 million more. Assembly member Maria Gladziszewski said splitting the grants up will allow for changes.

“For example, someone mentioned minority-owned businesses getting some preference or some set aside — we can do that in the second round as more people think about it and we have some experience with what happened to this round of funds,” Gladziszewski said. “And that’s exactly why I’m glad we’re doing it in two phases.”

The city’s also pursuing the ability to do same-day COVID-19 testing locally. The city’s emergency operations planning chief, Robert Barr, discussed the plan in the works. He said he’s researching options and is leaning toward a system that could process 1,300 tests a day, running 24 hours a day.

“We think — and this is a pretty big ‘think’ — but we think that 1,300 tests per day should be more than sufficient for Juneau and for the region,” Barr said.

An ordinance to spend $700,000 on the testing technology is due back to the assembly at its next meeting.

The Assembly also referred an ordinance to spend $1 million in CARES Act money to create trail work jobs this summer to the Assembly Finance Committee.

Original story | 4:36 p.m. Monday

A woman crosses Marine Way in front of Juneau City Hall on Sept. 25, 2017. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

The Juneau Assembly is expected to finalize its operating budget, capital budget and property tax rates for the new fiscal year at its regular meeting tonight. Tonight’s agenda also includes several one-off items funded by federal CARES Act relief money.

As proposed, the city’s operating budget would authorize spending almost $386 million in the year that begins July 1.

Without changes, the capital budget would authorize $34.5 million of spending. That’s down almost 8%. The project list mostly covers work on city infrastructure, including sewer and water lines, streets, and building maintenance.

While City Manager Rorie Watt’s April budget proposal called for a significant property tax hike, budget cuts plus millions in federal CARES Act money will make up for tax revenue that won’t come in because of the pandemic. Property tax rates are expected to remain the same after the Assembly’s final vote on them tonight.

Additional CARES Act spending on tonight’s agenda includes $12 million for local business grants over three phases, $7.5 million for hospital operations, $1 million for creating trail work jobs, and $700,000 to buy equipment for same-day COVID-19 testing.

The assembly will meet by video conference at 7 p.m. Live coverage will be available on this post, on 104.3 FM, and the city’s Facebook page.

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