The Haines Borough manager’s budget was released late Friday afternoon. And while it’s just the first step in a months-long process, some assembly members already have a long list of questions.
Interim manager Brad Ryan in his proposed FY17 budget suggests limited increase to mill rates, and a significant personnel change among borough staff.
Ryan proposed axing the Community and Economic Development Director position, which has been vacant for almost a year, and hiring an Executive Assistant to the Manager. According to Ryan’s suggestion, the manager’s assistant would provide half-time support to public facilities and work half-time for the manager. Along with the addition, he is proposing that the deputy clerk’s hours get reduced by half.
The mill rate would not change inside the townsite with only “minor changes” to the rate outside the townsite. The only exception is the Eagle Vista area , which increased from 10.97 to 12.29 mills.
The budget also proposes transferring the maximum amount of $293,000 from the Permanent Fund earnings reserve to the Area Wide General Fund to cover expenses.
The 138-page proposed budget is just the first step on the road to a final borough financial plan. It will act as a guide for assembly members at the many budget meetings scheduled between now and June. Ryan pointed out in the introduction that he is the third manager in three years to present a budget.
Assemblywoman Diana Lapham spent the weekend poring over the financial plan. By Monday morning, she had a list of questions and a summary in preparation for the first committee of the whole meeting slated for April 12.
“We’ve got potential budget for the CPT, the commercial passenger tax, that I don’t have any status reports on from the state,” she says. “Normally, the manager would give us status reports on a lot of different issues that are out there. The last I heard about that commercial passenger tax is that it’s kind of in limbo right now.”
Indeed, the budget shows the revenue from the Commercial Passenger Vessel Tax at around $190,000 – to be used for various port and dock projects, including $45,000 for a proposed Portage Cove waterfront trail.
How the borough budget will be affected by the state budget is perhaps the biggest question mark. The state budget could get passed by the end of the regular legislative session, but if last year is any indication, that is unlikely.
Assemblywoman Margaret Friedenauer echoed concerns about state support.
“I think the most difficult part of this budget is going to be not having exact numbers from the state for a few, and not understanding what impacts state revenue is going to have,” she says. “So, I think the biggest challenges of this budget are the unknowns – not necessarily what’s in there, but what’s not in there yet, which is state revenue.”
According to the budget, the Haines Borough gets a total of $3.2 million from the state.
Lapham also expressed concerns about the status of the Klehini Valley Fire Department, and money allotted to Lynn Canal Counseling, which was absorbed by SEARHC last year.
Assemblyman Ron Jackson says that the fact that there are no jaw-dropping changes to this year’s proposed budget is positive.
“For the most part, he’s trying to hold a status quo and not bring in extra funding through mill rates and that’s good.“
As far as the police department goes, the budget allots for four officers, including the chief. The department’s budget got cut by one officer last year and acting chief Josh Dryden says he’s still holding out hope that money will materialize for a fifth officer. He says he’s working “aggressively” toward getting a fifth position and is trying to articulate to the public and the assembly how important it is.
The police department budget in the FY17 plan shows more than $520,000 in total expenditures.
Money set aside in the community chest for nonprofits will hold steady at $32,500 – the same as last year. While FY17 capital improvement list focuses on maintaining and/or improving existing facilities and infrastructure. Ryan is not proposing to add any new facilities. He says the primary focus is on infrastructure that supports water and sewer services, and transportation. Ryan says bid documents related to the replacement of the wastewater treatment building are currently in the works.
Three committee of the whole meetings are scheduled over the next month, with three public hearings on the assembly’s agenda. The borough budget is scheduled for adoption on June 14. Find the full budget here.