The Haines Borough Assembly took care of two significant items within an hour Tuesday night. The assembly passed a budget that includes more money for police and funding for an economic development corporation. The group also finalized the contract for the new borough manager.
The budget includes an additional $120,000 that would pay for a fifth police officer and more overtime and standby hours.
Assemblyman Tom Morphet proposed keeping funding for the fifth officer, but not for the extra overtime and standby.
Police Chief Heath Scott said in a previous discussion if the borough attracts an entry-level candidate for the fifth officer position, the person will need a lot of training. That’s one reason to budget additional standby and overtime.
Morphet says if that happens, the assembly can always amend the budget partway through the year.
Tresham Gregg agreed with Morphet.
“At the moment, I don’t really understand why we would both have a fifth officer and an increase in the overtime and standby time,” Gregg said.
But the rest of the assembly members did not.
“I think we need to honor the chief’s request and the recommendation from the manager and go ahead and give it a try,” said Heather Lende.
Morphet’s motion failed, 2-3.
Another controversial part of the budget is $95,000 for a new approach to economic development. The Haines Economic Development Corporation is a new private, non-profit group led by established business leaders in the community.
Although there’s been debate about the HEDC at past meetings, there was no discussion Tuesday. The $95,000 passed. But that doesn’t mean it’s a done deal. The corporation and borough still need to draw up a contract to finalize that funding.
The assembly didn’t make any major changes to the budget Tuesday. They did approve $6,000 to further offset the cost of increased borough health insurance premiums. They budgeted $5,500 to pay for the upcoming special recall election. And they adjusted the manager’s budgeted salary down to $93,600 – the salary requested by new manager Debra Schnabel.
A list of previously-approved amendments were left as is. They include reducing the mayor’s salary, a $32,000 general allocation for nonprofits, a $10,000 increase in the library budget and $17,000 to pay for a Sunday swim at the borough pool.
Morphet addressed the fact that most of the assembly’s changes to the budget are spending increases, not cost reductions.
“I want to acknowledge that most of these increases are coming out of savings and it’s not a sustainable budget,” Morphet said. “But as long as we’re dipping into savings for an economic development corporation and policing I think we can also give people some things that lift people up. But this kind of spending won’t last, can’t last.”
Clarification: While the money for an additional police officer is coming out of townsite fund savings, the HEDC money is coming from the one percent tourism and economic development tax. That fund has a surplus because the tax has been underutilized in recent years.
After unanimously passing the budget, the assembly swiftly took care of the manager contract.
Schnabel’s employment agreement stalled because she originally did not want to use borough health insurance.
The contract was approved, but there are still some looming questions about how Schnabel will deal with matters related to her brother, who owns a local construction company.
The borough attorney has advised that in order for Roger Schnabel’s Southeast Road Builders to contract with the municipality, the assembly would need to change code.
“My feeling is to open up our code,” said new member Stephanie Scott. “So we’re not hampered by these situations.”
Attorney Brooks Chandler said the borough may want to narrow down its conflict of interest rules so that siblings aren’t counted as ‘immediate family members.’
The assembly directed Schnabel to come up with a proposed code change that would allow for contracting with siblings of borough officers.