Juneau City Finance Director Jeff Rogers, left, explains how $5,500 payments to residents approved by the Alaska Senate may endanger a $16 million school bond reimbursement payment to the city during a meeting of the Juneau Assembly’s Finance Committee on Wednesday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Juneau City Finance Director Jeff Rogers, left, explains how $5,500 payments to residents approved by the Alaska Senate may endanger a $16 million school bond reimbursement payment to the city during a meeting of the Juneau Assembly’s Finance Committee on Wednesday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

$5,500 checks to residents may come at city’s expense

Record payments to residents OK’d by state Senate could cost city school bond debt reimbursement.

Would you prefer a check for $5,500 or have the city government receive extra funds to help balance its budget and provide additional services?

Without pretending to cite any actual polling, it seems safe to assume Juneau Finance Director Jeff Rogers is among the minority expressing concern about the city getting the short end of that decision.

Which essentially is what the Alaska Legislature and Gov. Mike Dunleavy may be deciding, since Senate approval of a budget providing $5,500 payments to residents may result in nixing $221 million to municipalities to make up for five years of short-funded school bond debt reimbursements.

Juneau was expected to get $16 million in reimbursements which, to simplify, would have turned a $7.5 million deficit in next year’s budget into a sizable surplus.

“That number seemed more certain and less likely to be vetoed by the governor until (Tuesday’s) unprecedented action on the state budget,” Rogers told the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly’s Finance Committee on Wednesday.

The committee is at the point in its annual budget cycle where tough decisions about specific cuts and potential tax increases are being made, and Rogers said he can’t even make a wild guess about how state lawmakers — able to bestow lucrative election-year payments due to skyrocketing oil prices — will ultimately act.

“I think you’re in an unenviable position because that $16 million really does influence what you decide today, and I can’t tell you how certain it is,” he said.

The city has $10.5 million in its reserve fund so it can cover a shortfall next year, but allowing the balance to drop too low threatens the ability to have adequate funding for emergencies and other urgent purposes.

• Contact reporter Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com.

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