After several weeks of work and discussion, the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly unanimously approved the Fiscal Year 2019 budget at Monday night’s meeting.
The final approved budget comes in at approximately $343.5 million for FY19, which is about $1.5 more in general government spending compared to last year. Assembly member and Finance Committee Chair Jesse Kiehl said the increase in spending goes against the Assembly’s goals in the past.
“It was a very unusual budget cycle where we balanced the budget while making some investment in the future with a significant increase in spending that we won’t be able to sustain,” Kiehl said. “We had an increase in spending without seeing revenues go up. It worries me a bit.”
Some of the key additions to the FY19 budget, which begins July 1 and runs through June 30, 2019, include appropriating $200,000 for two additional police officers and appropriating $35,000 in police officer recruitment at the Juneau Police Department. Eaglecrest Ski Area also received Capital Improvement Project funding in the amount of $250,000 for snowmaking equipment as an effort to have more snow on the mountain during the ski season.
School district automotive program may stay alive
The Juneau School District also received approximately $27.8 million from the city, which was approved during the Assembly’s May 14 meeting. One part of the school district’s FY19 budget that was cut was the automotive program. The Assembly had expressed concerns over the program in prior meeting and heard public testimony on April 25. After approving the district budget on May 14, the Assembly asked staff to see if there was any way the city could fund the program.
The program costs the district $40,000 to rent space at the University of Alaska Southeast Technical Education Center, across from Juneau-Douglas High School. At Monday’s meeting, City attorney Amy Mead told the Assembly that the city could finance the program through a special revenue fund that could only be used for that particular program.
Assembly member Beth Weldon made the motion that Assembly direct staff to draft an ordinance that would appropriate $40,000 to bring forward to the Assembly at a later date. The motion passed unanimously.
“I am very excited that we did find funding to continue the lease at UAS for the auto shop for JDHS and I hope we are able to do that for years to come,” Weldon said.
Robin Paul, of Juneau, who has three sons who have taken the automotive program, testified on the importance of the program and is hopeful it will be approved by the Assembly.
“It is a very important program,” Paul said. “My son Carson in a marine mechanic in Petersburg and my other two sons who took the program, live and work in Juneau. It affords kids hands-on opportunities to learn skills that will be lifelong and I hope it continues to fruition. I appreciate the Assembly taking the time to delve into finding funding and I hope to see this class not only this year but into the future.”
If approved, the funding will come out of the city’s general fund, but is not yet included in the FY19 budget.
The FY19 budget was introduced at the April 4 Special Assembly meeting and moved to the Assembly Finance Committee for deliberation. The Finance Committee held six meetings on the budget and a public comment opportunity was provided during a Special Assembly meeting on April 25. The committee moved the proposed final budget to the full Assembly at its May 9 meeting.
This approval not only means an approval of the FY19 budget, but also a preliminary approval of the FY20 budget. The Finance Committee and the Assembly will still go over and finalize the FY20 budget next year. Nearly $2 million will be taken out of the city’s fund balance for FY19 and $1.7 million for FY20 to balance the budget. The fund balance is revenues that have been collected in the past and have yet to be used and stands at approximately $12.6 million. The city did get an unexpected boost when, starting two years ago, there was a 1 to 2 percent predicted decrease in sales tax revenues, but that number actually turned out to be a 1 to 2 percent increase which equaled about $3 million.
• Contact reporter Gregory Philson at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 523-2265. Follow him on Twitter at @GTPhilson.