The Haines Assembly introduced a series of amendments to the proposed fiscal year ‘18 borough budget at its meeting Tuesday. The discussion revealed divides in how assembly members view funding for nonprofits, the police department and more.
Let’s start with nonprofit funding. In previous years, the borough has set aside about $60,000 to allocate to nonprofits. Organizations apply for funding, and their requests go to the assembly for approval.
That process has caused some controversy in recent years, and Assembly member Margaret Friedenauer said she wants to set up a more focused procedure.
“I think it’s more purposeful for us as an assembly to say we want to spend money on this activity,” Friedenauer said. “And if a nonprofit comes forward and offers to do that activity then we’re accomplishing a goal we set rather than funding a nonprofit for an arbitrary action.”
One example of this is to add $5,000 to the budget for a scrap metal recycling program. It’s something the Haines Friends of Recycling has done in the past by applying for borough grants.
That motion passed, along with one to add $20,000 to the tourism promotion budget for nonprofit allocations. To offset the cost of her nonprofit funding amendments, Friedenauer proposed removing the $22,500 lobbying services funding. That was also approved.
Some of Friedenauer’s amendments aimed at a more directed approach passed. But then Assemblyman Tom Morphet moved to add $32,000 into the budget for general nonprofit allocations, similar to what’s happened in past years.
“I ran on a platform that I believe most nonprofits contribute to the economic development of this community,” Morphet said. “And my druthers is to give one percent of the budget to nonprofits because I think they’re going to start doing more of the work of the government in the future.”
That caused some confusion among assembly members about which nonprofit funding approach they should follow. But Assembly member Heather Lende said a ‘hybrid’ model could work. Morphet’s amendment passed, with Friedenauer opposed.
Morphet compared the nonprofit funding to the $150,000 proposed increase in the police department budget. That increase pays for a fifth officer and more overtime and standby hours. Morphet made a motion to reduce the police budget by holding standby and overtime at the same level as this year.
“I don’t understand why we’re adding an officer and doubling standby and 50 percent increase in overtime,” Morphet said. “It seems to me the department needs one or the other.”
Interim manager Brad Ryan said if Morphet wanted to reduce the police budget, he should propose a dollar amount, and then it would be up to police chief to decide whether to use the money for a fifth officer or for standby and overtime hours.
Morphet withdrew his motion to refine and bring back at the next meeting.
A couple other budget amendments were approved. Ron Jackson proposed cutting the mayor’s salary from $15,000 to $6,000, starting after the upcoming October election. Jackson said Haines’ mayoral salary didn’t line up with Sitka, Petersburg and Kodiak, which pay in the neighborhood of $6,000. That amendment passed unanimously.
Lende proposed adding $10,000 to the library budget for wages. She said sitting on the library board for years, she saw how difficult it was to retain staff because most of the jobs there aren’t full-time, positions with benefits.
“I feel really strongly that the library serves every person in this community,” Lende said. “It’s an award-winning library and I hate to see qualified people not be able to stay.”
Margaret Friedenauer was the only vote against Lende’s amendment.
“It’s very difficult to argue against such an intention,” Friedenauer said. “However, why not the museum? Why not the pool? Why not wages anywhere else in the borough but the library?”
The amendments are not final until the assembly adopts the budget. That could happen at its May 30 meeting, where there will be a third public hearing.
There is also a committee meeting on May 25 to dig into police, economic development and nonprofit funding.