The new fiscal year starts in a little more than a month, and the Haines Borough still needs to pass an operating budget for 2020. At a meeting of the borough assembly Tuesday, members of the public raised concerns about the budget process and requested more time to provide input on proposed cuts.
At the start of April, Haines Borough Manager Debra Schnabel released the first draft of the operating budget for fiscal year 2020. The manager’s budget avoided cuts while increasing spending for the library and police department.
In an interview last week Schnabel said decisions about where to cut the municipal budget are up to the assembly.
“I mean certainly if I am directed to reduce the government I will do that, but I don’t think I will do it in a way that takes away from the staff—what it is that they have to work with,” Schnabel said. “We will have to talk about cutting programs rather than doing more with less.”
This week assembly member Brenda Josephson drafted a set of budget cuts for consideration.
She proposed to reduce spending on the library, museum, and stipends for the borough assembly.
Library Director Carolyn Goolsby expressed concerns about the proposed cuts. According to Goolsby, the proposed 10 percent reduction in the library’s budget would have a significant impact on the services available to the public.
“Fewer hours per day open. Possibly completely getting rid of essential services that we provide in some cases. Fewer programs that we can offer. Fewer hours of meeting rooms for people to use,” Goolsby said.
Haines Sheldon Museum Director Helen Alten said that the proposed $46,000 cut to the museum is equivalent to the salary for a full time paid position.
Representatives from the museum and library said they were caught off guard by the proposed cuts. Library Board Vice President Margaret Friedenauer said they need more time to plan for cuts of this size.
“It makes the timing difficult now that this is at second reading one month before the new fiscal year is to take effect,” Friedenauer said.
No action was taken on Josephson’s proposed budget cuts. However, the assembly agreed to hold a third public hearing on the borough’s operating budget on June 11th.
While budget cuts were a concern for some who attended the meeting on Tuesday, others worried about increasing spending on the police department. On Tuesday the assembly voted to cover a roughly $30,000 overrun in spending by the police department this year.
Assemblyman Tom Morphet opposed the decision.
“I’ll be voting against more funding for the police,” Morphet said. “We’ve had $90,000 dollars in budget overruns in two years, and it’s unacceptable.”
Police Chief Heath Scott said the department is short-staffed and that overspending is related to paying for overtime and standby time while he was injured.
There are still some variables affecting the borough’s budget that are unknown. The governor and legislature have yet to resolve several state budget issues that could affect the funding coming in to the borough.
Whether or not those issues are resolved at the state level, the borough must pass a final budget by June 15th.