City and Borough of Juneau Finance Director Bob Bartholomew looks at a screen during a budget presentation meeting Wednesday, April 3, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

City and Borough of Juneau Finance Director Bob Bartholomew looks at a screen during a budget presentation meeting Wednesday, April 3, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

City holds first meeting on proposed budget with slight changes to spending and property tax rate

School board also presented its budget

That other budget looms over the City and Borough of Juneau’s budget-planning process.

The city kicked off its nine-week budget process with a special meeting Wednesday night and an overview presentation of the proposed budget for fiscal year 2020, and the governor’s proposed budget made its way into a lot of the discussion.

“It’s by far the most interesting state budget process any of us have ever seen,” City Manager Rorie Watt said. “I don’t know if interesting is the only word to use, but it’s the word we would all agree to use together.”

He said while the city’s proposed budget was set under the assumption there would not be drastic changes to the state budget, he also would not be surprised if significant changes were later necessary because of state budget cuts.

[Public is invited to weigh in on how to spend passenger fees]

Assembly member Carole Triem, Assembly member Mary Becker and Mayor Beth Weldon were not physically present, but called into the meeting.

The overall proposed expenditure budget for fiscal year 2020 is $356 million. That’s an increase of $6.3 million — 1.8 percent — from last year. The total revenue projection is $350 million, which means a draw from savings of about $6 million.

That includes $77 million for general government operations, $87.5 million for the Juneau School District, $138 million for enterprise organizations, $36.8 million for capital improvement projects and $16.7 million for bond debt service.

There would be an expected $16 million in general government available fund balance at the end of the year, according to the proposed budget.

General government includes departments such as Juneau Police Department, Capital City Fire/Rescue, Public Works, Community Development, Parks & Recreation and Juneau Public Libraries.

Enterprise organizations, which fund their operations entirely through user fees, are Bartlett Regional Hospital, Juneau International Airport, Docks & Harbors, and Water & Sewer Utilities.

“We’re right on the precipice of having a sustainable budget vs. not having a sustainable budget,” CBJ Finance Director Bob Bartholomew said.

Bartholomew said the city is in a reasonably favorable situation, but if the state budget or desired projects cause significant changes to revenue or expenditures, the Assembly would likely need to consider making changes to spending or taxes to make sure things stay stable.

He said something like that was done in 2014, which resulted in $3 million in more revenue and $3 million in cut spending and allowed the city to build up its savings. If changes do need to be made, Bartholomew said he would advise against making cuts to departments.

The proposed property tax mill levy rate is 10.56 — that’s 0.1 mills less than last year — due to a decrease in the mill levy with debt service.

For the past three years, the operational mill rate has stayed steady at 9.36 mills, according to the city’s budget packet, and the debt service mill rate in the proposed budget would drop to 1.2 mills from 1.3 mills.

“We had a slight increase in property value, so even with the slight decrease in mill rate, we’re bringing in more,” Bartholomew said.

[Local landmark inspired an orchestral piece]

That means even if the rate is lower, property owners might see no difference or even an increase on their tax bills .

The proposed mill rate would work out to a projected $45 million in collected property tax for government programs and education and $5.9 million for debt service.

“That’s split about 50-50 between what’s going to school debt and what’s going to public facilities debt,” Bartholomew said of the $5.9 million.

The finance committee will meet every Wednesday through May 15 except for May 1, and there will be a public hearing for the budget during an April 24 special assembly meeting.

The Assembly is scheduled to adopt the budget at the June 3 meeting.

School board budget

The Juneau School District presented its budget to the Assembly Wednesday night.

The total expenditures of the budget will be about $71.12 million.

Assembly members did not ask questions about the budget, and the city’s proposed budget recommends funding the district to the cap allowed by the federal government. The total included in the city’s proposed fiscal year 2020 budget is about $28.17 million.

[School board gives its budget a final reading]

That cap on what amount the city can spend on the district is influenced by both state funding and enrollment, so the exact figure can be tough to predict before the start of a school year, JSD Superintendent Bridget Weiss said.

Weiss said school administrators and the board are watching the Legislature closely to see what amount of state support will be heading the district’s way, and the budget presented was based on a base student allocation (the amount of money the district gets per student) of $5,930 and an enrollment of 4,577.

“If the state budget doesn’t turn out like that, when do we do something about that?” asked Deputy Mayor Maria Gladziszewski.

Bartholomew said the district and city would be in touch fairly quickly and figure out what would need to be done.

Assembly member Loren Jones said it would likely be January before the Assembly would meet to make a change to the budget because of the disbursement schedule of enrollment-based funding.

School Board President Brian Holst also spoke during the budget presentation.

He thanked the Assembly for funding to the cap, and reminded Assembly members enrollment variance could mean the district would need to give money back to the city or make the city eligible to give more money to the district.

In the latter scenario, Holst said he would hope Assembly members would understand that the cap had increased rather than interpreting it as the district asking for more money.

“The one thing we’re pretty sure that will be different is the number of kids that show up,” Holst said.


• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com.


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