Summary: The Assembly passed a mill rate of 10.66 during a meeting that took over three hours. That’s the same rate as last year, but increased valuations mean the city is expected to collect about $480,000 more. The Assembly also approved its budget with much less conversation and removed Fish Creek Park from a list of parks that could be considered for being disposed.
Day, who opened the meeting with public comment, took to the mic again to ask people to reach out to TBPM with their concerns.
During her report, Hale asked that the mayor send a letter to the president of Norwegian Cruise Line and ask them to reduce their visible emissions.
“We know they can do it,” Hale said. “But we have also observed that they are not, in many cases.”
She asked if anyone would object to the mayor sending such a letter.
“I would be very cautious on the wording,” Jones said. “To have it presented as, ‘Everyone else has cleaned up their language why don’t you,’ I don’t think is the right language.”
He said he didn’t object to a letter being drafted, but he would not approve it without seeing a draft of the letter.
Bryson asked if it would be best to send a letter through Tourism Best Management Practices.
Weldon said she agreed, but a lot of that has been tried and it may be time for more formal action.
Tonight’s meeting has outlasted the run times of “The Godfather: Part II,” “Seven Samurai,” “Schindler’s List,” “The Deer Hunter,” “The Hateful Eight,” and “Spartacus,” according to the times listed on the Internet Movie Database. We’re almost out of Assembly members to deliver reports, but “Ben-Hur” and “The Ten Commandments” are within 2 minutes and 10 minutes, respectively.
“Hopefully everyone sees the time, so please keep your remarks brief,” Weldon said before launching into her mayor’s report.
Jones noted that this is Becker’s 18th consecutive time — between serving on the school board and Assembly — being involved in the CBJ’s budget-making process.
“That’s a helluva an accomplishment,” Jones said. “It really is.”
The meeting continues, but staff reports are limping along through dry territory. Assembly reports will follow.
The Assembly is receiving an update on a proposed annexation.
Palmer said he intends to file an annexation petition with the local boundary commission within the next week.
The land included in the possible annexation area are mostly to the south of Juneau and includes the Glass Peninsula by along Stephens Passage and land near Funter Bay, which is further north from the other annexation areas and is separated from Douglas Island by Stephens Passage.
Watt said there is still a lot of public process to go, and filing the petition is really the first step in the process.
Watt provided an update on the idea of a new City and Borough of Juneau City Hall.
“The concept of a new City Hall is being received warmly,” Watt said.
He said there’s been a lot of discussion about details — especially about the possible location of the new city headquarters.
“We think it’s going to take more time than from now until the October ballot,” Watt said.
He said the October 2020 ballot is more important.
“It’s a good idea this year, it’s a good idea last year, and it’s a good idea next year,” Watt said.
The meeting is back in session.
There were no objections, and the budget passed unanimously. Now, a 10-minute break is being taken.
It took a while, but the Assembly is now talking about its fiscal year 2020 budget.
The ordinance sets up an operating budget of $379,491,500 and recognizes $373,349,300 of projected revenue and transfers-in and decreases fund balances, across all funds, by $6,142,200.
Watt recommends the Assembly waive a requirement that the airport’s north terminal rebuild project secure Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification.
The exemption passed unanimously.
However, Hale, who is the liaison to the Juneau Commission on Sustainability, said the decision does not indicate that the Assembly will be waiving the requirement with abandon, and she is satisfied that the airport’s board understands why there is a LEED certification requirement.
There was a role call vote and the lower mill rate failed 4-4.
Becker voted yes, Bryson yes, Edwardson yes, Hale yes, Hughes-Skandijs no, Jones no, Triem no, and Mayor Beth Weldon no.
Assembly member Maria Gladziszewski is not present.
The mill rate of 10.66 passed.
Hale weighed in and said she supports Becker’s lower mill rate.
Edwardson said he does not believe in preemptive taxing.
“Say we get everything that we ask for, are people going to get a rebate?” he asked. “I don’t think so. I think it’s unlikely to happen, but it’s a little thought experiment I go to.”
Hughes-Skandijs spoke against Becker’s amendment citing uncertainty about school bond debt.
“Items like sales tax are also affected by uncertainty the longer that this goes on at the state level,” she said.
Assembly member Carole Triem agreed with Jones and Hughes-Skandijs.
Assembly member Mary Becker objected to a Hughes-Skandijs motion to approve the recommended mill rate.
Becker countered with an amendment that the mill rate should be set at 10.56.
“We have a healthy savings account, we have a healthy rainy day account, our sales tax went up, our assessments went up,” Becker said. “I just feel we should do this for the public. We should do this for the people who are having a hard time.”
Bryson agreed and said it’s one of few chances the Assembly gets to directly affect the cost of living in Juneau.
“This is one of the definite ways we can lower the cost of living or at least keep the cost of living under control,” Bryson said.
Assembly member Loren Jones spoke against a motion to amend and said the possibility of lowering the mill rate was discussed at length at the committee level.
“We spent a considerable amount of time talking about changes at the state level concerning school bond debt reimbursement,” Jones said. “At the present time, we have a moratorium on school bond debt reimbursement from the state, we have schools that are aging. We have $5 million over the next five years to spend on the schools, and we all realize that probably isn’t enough. This change allows us to have about half $1 million to that $7.1 million.”
The city would be on the hook for $7.1 million in school bond debt should the state opt to not contribute to repaying the debt.
It took almost two hours, but the mill rate is now being discussed.
The rate recommended by the Finance Committee is 10.66, which is the same as last year. It is an increase of 0.1 mill over what was in the city manager’s recommended budget.
The city would expect to collect an additional $480,000 as a result of the change.
There was a short break in the meeting after the amended resolution unanimously passed.
“I think the Assembly did a good job,” said Mary Irvine, who said she likes to visit the Fish Creek Park for berry-picking and values it as a habitat for fish, birds and animals. “The parks are for everybody, and this resilient little park deserves more recognition.”
However, she said it did raise questions about whether municipal code should require notification of a potential land reclassification in a Parks & Recreation master plan.
She allowed that ultimately the distinction in the plan is nominal with no official impact, but it is still a small step toward the process of land disposal that she was glad to see go.
Bryson asked the city attorney if neighborhoods need to be notified of reclassification of land.
City attorney Robert Palmer said not for a Parks and Recreation plan.
Hughes-Skandijs maintained her objection and made an amendment that would remove a chart in the plan that highlights land that could be disposed.
Byrson objected to the amendment.
“I don’t believe that reclassification of land is the same as land disposal,” Bryson said.
He also said removing the reclassification map would be throwing out good work by city employees, and he would prefer just removing Fish Creek from the map of disposable land.
Hughes-Skandijs said she would be open to that.
The Parks & Recreation master plan was approved
Assembly member Loren Jones, moved the Assembly approve the resolution that would adopt the Parks and Recreation Master Plan.
Assembly member Alicia Hughes-Skandijs objected to the motion and thanked her neighbors for delivering passionate testimony.
“They’re right about the toads,” she said. “They’re amazing.”
Parks & Recreation Director George Schaaf is fielding questions from the Assembly.
Assembly Member Wade Bryson asked how the land was chosen to lose its park designation.
Schaaf tagged in planning manager Alexandra Pierce, who said some small portions of the land were identified as “developable.”
“It does concern me we have so many people here, who have never heard of this,” said Assembly member Rob Edwardson. “Are there any hidden issues in here we’re not hearing from the public on?”
Pierce said there was a McDowell group phone survey of 500 residents, an online survey, five public meetings were held and the department met with 37 different community organizations.
Watt said the master plan is a big-picture planning document and the matter being discussed is relatively granular.
“If the Assembly wants to look at the inventory, it should be a holistic look at everything we have, and it should be a look at the land for all of our needs,” Watt said.
He said approving the master plan would not necessarily mean the park would be sold to a developer or cease to be a park.
“Land disposals do not happen in one meeting,” Watt said. “They do not happen quickly.”
Fish Creek includes vacant lands between a semi-private area and Bayview neighborhood.
Residents have said the park at North Douglas is home to toads, bats, bears and deer, and they would like to see that wildlife go undisturbed and preserve the green space that residents enjoy.
Paula Terrel and Karla Hart, also members of the group hoping to spur a limit on tourism, also spoke.
“I’m hopeful that with this new Assembly we can have a fresh start and take the lead on addressing increasing community concerns,” Terrel said.
She said while she appreciates the positives that tourism brings to Juneau, the city has reached its carrying capacity, and the situation has become untenable.
Public comment is focused on tourism.
Kim Metcalfe, member of the newly formed Juneau Neighborhoods Affected by Tourism group, spoke during public comment.
The group is making a request for copies of all tourism-related permits that CBJ has issued as well as copies of any pending requests for such permits.
She asked that City Manager Rorie Watt investigate the 10-year plan for cruise lines to determine intent for future growth, the city to look into whether portions of the city — especially residential areas — could be zoned to be off limits to tourism.
Tourism Best Management Practices Coordinator Kirby Day is providing the Assembly with an update on how the young tourism season is going.
Day said so far, the TBMP hotline has received about 20 calls, which are being reviewed.
Tonight, the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly is expected to lock in its budget and mill rate.
While there’s still some uncertainty about what sort of financial burden the city will face as a result of whatever state budget is ultimately passed, CBJ’s charter requires tax levies be adopted before June 15.
The Finance Committee recommended a mill rate of 10.66, which is unchanged from last year. Generally, property evaluations have increased over the past year, so most people will probably pay slightly more in property taxes.