After four years spent leading the City and Borough of Juneau’s finance department, city finance director Jeff Roger is rapidly wrapping up his time in his leadership position with the city.
Wednesday evening’s Assembly Finance Committee meeting marked Roger’s last finance meeting with the city, which for years he has attended and provided extensive knowledge of the city’s finances, and provided information in a digestible way to the Assembly and residents of Juneau.
Roger’s last day with the city is slated for June. 30 and he will be succeeded by Angie Flick, who previously served as the city’s treasurer before being selected for the position in April.
As a token of thanks, Assembly members and other city administrators gifted Roger a pair of earrings — a wardrobe staple of his — and shared their gratitude for his contribution to the city.
“I hope that whenever you wear them you will remember fondly being in the windowless room with your nine best friends on a sunny Wednesday evening,” Assembly member and Finance Chair Director Carole Triem said, laughing.
Triem thanked him for his grace in teaching her the ropes of the city’s budget throughout her time on the Assembly and heading the finance committee.
“I do feel like almost everything I know about the CBJ budget and therefore everything I know about CBJ I learned from Mr. Rogers,” she said. “I think Mr. Rogers has done an impeccable job at translating some really complicated things into words and graphs that this Assembly can understand — which is no easy thing to do.”
Assembly member Greg Smith agreed and also thanked him for his time.
“I just want to thank Mr. Rogers for his many years, and his many memos and recommendations,” he said. “Thank you for your years of service.”
Rogers shared a few words about his time with the city and in his role.
“It has been the best job of my life and I have been happy to be here and I will miss you — as wild as you are and sometimes difficult to deal with,” he said, laughing.
Rogers said he felt Juneau was lucky to have a unified municipal government, which he said isn’t often the case for many municipalities across the country.
“This government works — we actually serve the public really well and we actually do stuff that matters,” he said. “Juneau’s government works, and I feel blessed to have worked here and if I have made anything better I am really thankful for it.”
Rogers is also saying goodbye publicly in speeches, including a Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon Thursday where he started by declaring “I’m going to be as unfiltered and as unhinged as I can.”
The general theme of Rogers’ presentation was “the concept of magical thinking…(where) the public will always demand more services than they’re willing to pay for.” He said that while a recent study shows 75% of people think local government is good at providing services, only 49% think what they pay for government services is a good value.
“We always want someone else to pay,” he said. “We don’t really care what it is, or how, or the mechanism.”
There’s also the dilemma of Juneau adding or increasing services in recent years such as child care grants, recreational facilities and heat pumps for homes, he said. But residents, including those representing organizations, offer conflicting messages to city leaders.
“Many people in this room have within a couple days of each other sent an email to the Assembly saying ‘I think you should pay for x’ and then a couple days later sent an email saying you should reduce the mill rate,” he said.
Rogers said the city is being pushed to provide services for things the state no longer provides as much funding for, such as education facilities, as well as trying to plug gaps where private industry is lacking such as towing. But despite that, he said the city’s overall budget has remained relatively flat during the past decade when adjusted for inflation.
“At the end of the day the amount of city raises and taxes will always be the amount that we spend, obviously, plus fees and grants and other things” he said. “But there’s no disconnect between spending and taxes, we can’t print money, and we don’t hoard or stop.”
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