A mill rate increase, police department cuts, shifting animal control duties from HARK to the police, and closing the pool for three weeks out of the year. Those are some of the proposals in the Haines Borough Manager’s Fiscal Year ’16 Borough Budget, which was released today.
Borough Manager Dave Sosa has been preparing the public for several weeks for some serious cuts and Wednesday he showed his cards. Sosa is proposing a mill rate increase and slashing spending — which will be most apparent in the police department.
Sosa is suggesting increasing the area wide mill rate by a quarter mills. That equals 23 cents increase of tax for every $1,000 of assessed value. For example, a property worth $100,000 will see a tax increase of $23 on their annual tax bill.
In his memo introducing the budget, Sosa lists several areas where borough revenues are expected to fall in the next fiscal year. The community jails program, which makes up 40 percent of the police department budget, is likely getting slashed by the state. That’s one of the biggest revenue hits Sosa says the borough expects. It could equal about $270,000 in lost revenue.
To offset that loss, Sosa is recommending freezing the hiring of a fifth police officer position, which is currently vacant. He also recommends cutting hours for dispatch and eliminating the animal control officer contract with Haines Animal Rescue Kennel – or HARK. Police would take over animal control duties. Sosa says that would save the borough approximately $30,000.
Another state program, revenue sharing, is also expected to take a hit. Sosa notes low oil prices can have a good and bad effect on the borough – it means the borough can save some money on direct fuel costs, but could also mean less sales tax revenue the borough gets from fuel sales. The raw fish tax is also expected to decrease by a huge margin this year as well as revenue from a federal Payment in Lieu of Taxes program.
But there are some bright spots in the revenue outlook. Sosa writes in his memo, the borough is expecting a slight increase in sales tax, a 62 percent increase in business licenses, revenue from the new vehicle tax and several smaller increases in fines, fees and penalties and interest.
In other cost saving measures, Sosa is suggesting a spending decrease to the land and assessment departments, and a $37,000 reduction in the borough’s contribution to the school district. He proposes slight increases to the finance and information technology departments within the borough.
The pool, library and museum are also areas Sosa is hoping to cut costs. He is proposing to shut the pool down for three weeks in May, since that is the month with the lowest use. Sosa said the museum and library may have to decrease hours slightly because the borough is not budgeting to fund them at a level that keeps up with employee salary raises. He said the museum and library could fundraise to make up for that loss.
Sosa also recommends setting aside $32,500, the same amount as last year, to fulfill requests from area non-profits.
Sosa lists a few items the budget does not fund that were difficult choices for him. They include: a community center at Mosquito Lake, 4th of July fireworks and a DC trip to engage with representatives.
This is only the first step in a budget process that will last until early June. The assembly now begins holding working meetings on sections of the budget to take up Sosa’s proposals and finalize the budget. It has to be passed by the assembly no later than June 15.
Borough staff will present the budget to the assembly on Monday, April 6th. You can view the budget here.