Assembly member-elect Greg Smith listens with other members of the Assembly at a Finance Committee meeting at Juneau City Hall on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

Assembly member-elect Greg Smith listens with other members of the Assembly at a Finance Committee meeting at Juneau City Hall on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

Finance Committee takes a hard look at city’s fiscal future

Tough decisions are ahead for the Assembly

The Assembly Finance Committee took a deep dive into city revenue sources Wednesday, in the first of several meetings meant to get a handle on the city’s fiscal situation. The reason for the intensive sessions is that the city’s funds are on the decline and some tough decisions are ahead for the Assembly.

A combination of school maintenance, child care, repairs to Centennial Hall as well as school bond debt reimbursement (not helped by state budget cuts in that area) are going to create some hefty costs in the next few years, according to a report from the Finance Department.

The city isn’t in danger of going bankrupt, (a “healthy” $16 million in the general fund) but at current revenue and expenditure rates the city’s general fund will be depleted to the point the Finance Department says is the minimum for sound financial management, according to a Fiscal Sustainability Overview report crafted by the Finance Department.

But while the city still has money, the main message of the meeting is that some “tough decisions” are ahead, according to Finance Department Director Jeff Rogers.

Currently the general fund sits at about $16 million, but if present trends continue the fund will be down to around $5 million in fiscal year 2022, according to the Finance Department. The city’s accountants have said that’s as low as the general fund should go if the city wants to remain in good financial standing.

The city’s general fund is where revenue from things like taxes and fees are collected. These funds are used to pay for city services and employee salaries.

New-look, younger Assembly will shape future close votes

Finance Department Director Jeff Rogers led the Finance Committee through an hourlong presentation Wednesday night, accompanied by a packet with more than 60 pages of information on the city’s revenue sources.

“Because CBJ’s budget path has become unsustainable, staff recommends that the Assembly Finance Committee commit committee time to a thorough budget review in August and September of 2019,” the report reads.

Wednesday’s meeting on revenue will be followed on Oct. 9 with a meeting on expenditures. The meetings, part of a series of six, are designed to guide Assembly members as they decide where to make cuts and raise revenues.

“You are tonight seeing about one half of the question, and that’s the question of revenue,” Rogers told the committee. “The Assembly would likely need to make adjustments on both the expenditure and revenue. We’ve worked to give you a view to work through what will be challenging.”

Rogers told the Empire in an interview that the Assembly had decided to take action on the revenue/expenditure problem sooner rather than later, and requested a thorough review of city finances.

The committee was walked through revenue sources and a series of projections of possible future fiscal situations. Projections of the city’s finances were done by San Francisco-based PFM Group Consulting and are available from the city’s website.

Rogers ran the committee through their revenue options.

“Tonight was all about showing our Assembly at some level of detail where our revenue comes from,” Rogers said, “what level of control they have over revenue if that’s something they want to do to pay for priority programs.”

The committee looked back at previous Assembly recommendations for revenue from 2015. Those items included raising sales taxes and removing certain tax exemptions.

“Every revenue and every exemption has a logic and a constituency,” City Manager Rorie Watt told the Empire after the meeting, “and they are hard to change.”

The Finance Committee will be reviewing city expenditures at its next meeting and the Finance Department has urged the Assembly members to prioritize which programs and services they wish to preserve.


• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or psegall@juneauempire.com.


More in News

The Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Encore docks in Juneau in October of 2022. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for t​​he Week of April 22

Here’s what to expect this week.

The Hubbard, the newest vessel in the Alaska Marine Highway System fleet, docks at the Auke Bay Ferry Terminal on April 18. It is generally scheduled to provide dayboat service between Juneau, Haines and Skagway. (Photo by Laurie Craig)
Ongoing Alaska Marine Highway woes are such that marketing to Lower 48 tourists is being scaled back

“We just disappoint people right now,” AMHS’ marine director says during online public forum Monday.

Sen. Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, speaks during a news conference on Wednesday, March 1, 2023. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska Senate considers plan that would allow teens to independently seek mental health care

Amendment by Sen. Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, would lower the age for behavioral health care to 16

Rep. George Rauscher, R-Sutton, speaks during a news conference on Tuesday, March 28, at the Alaska State Capitol. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
House approves tougher route for environmental protections on Alaska rivers, lakes

HB95 would require lawmakers approve any “Tier III” labeling, the highest level of federal protection.

Rep. Andi Story (left, wearing gray), Rep. Sara Hannan (center, wearing purple) and Sen. Jesse Kiehl (wearing suit) talk with constituents following a legislative town hall on Thursday at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
All three members of Juneau’s legislative delegation seeking reelection

Reps. Andi Story and Sara Hannan, and Sen. Jesse Kiehl unopposed ahead of June 1 filing deadline

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Sunday, April 21, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

The “Newtok Mothers” assembled as a panel at the Arctic Encounter Symposium on April 11 discuss the progress and challenges as village residents move from the eroding and thawing old site to a new village site called Mertarvik. Photographs showing deteriorating conditions in Newtok are displayed on a screen as the women speak at the event, held at Anchorage’s Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Relocation of eroding Alaska Native village seen as a test case for other threatened communities

Newtok-to-Mertarvik transformation has been decades in the making.

Bailey Woolfstead, right, and her companion Garrett Dunbar examine the selection of ceramic and wood dishes on display at the annual Empty Bowls fundraiser on behalf of the Glory Hall at Centennial Hall on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Empty Bowls provides a full helping of fundraising for the Glory Hall

Annual soup event returns to Centennial Hall as need for homeless shelter’s services keeps growing.

Juneau Mayor Beth Weldon and her husband Greg. (Photo courtesy of the City and Borough of Juneau)
Greg Weldon, husband of Juneau Mayor Beth Weldon, killed in motorcycle accident Sunday morning

Accident occurred in Arizona while auto parts store co-owner was on road trip with friend

Most Read