Summary: Tonight’s meeting of the Committee of the Whole discussed possible shifts in the FY20 operating budget, including as large a possible variation in the major school maintenance as $35 million. Other major project costs include the proposed New JACC and Centennial Hall renovations, new parking near the state office building in downtown Juneau, a new city hall, and operating budgets for waste management and early childhood programs.
The COW also talked about several ways to increase operating budgets and one-time costs for those projects. Some of the methods discussed for offsetting possible loss of state funding include additional sales tax for four years, rebalancing the current budget and making cuts, increased motor vehicle registration tax, or a 5 percent increase in sales tax.
Municipal Attorney Robert Palmer provided some options for potential ordinances pertaining to the New JACC and Centennial Hall renovations. Among these are the possibilities of providing a grant for the New JACC, appropriating a given amount of funding, or authorizing a set amount of money through general obligation bonds to support improvements to Centennial Hall. He also mentioned ordinances increasing the Hotel-Motel Room Rental Tax from 7 percent to 12 percent, or amending the Sales Tax Code for transient residential rentals from the general 5 percent sales tax.
“We still have time from introducing to passing,” said Deputy Mayor Maria Gladziszewski, but decisions need to be made or more meetings of the Committee of the Whole may be necessary.
There is also a proposal for a 5% increase on the hotel tax solely dedicated to help fund the Centennial Hall renovations, said Bartholomew. Offsetting this, he said, was a corresponding loss of more than $1 million dollars a year toward the operating budget.
Bartholomew is talking about possible options to increase revenues, including budgeting and reallocating more than $4 million from the current budget, including cutting more than $1.5 million in funding from existing programs. He’s also discussed increasing sales tax by 1 percent for four years, raising motor vehicle registration taxes by $45-90, some of the lowest in Alaska, and change sales tax exemptions. “It’s not a proposal, it’s just a calculation,” said Bartholomew.
Bartholomew says that a series of hard decisions may need to be made to balance the budget. He also says, though, that the city had to do the same thing four-five years ago, that the decisions were made, and the city made it through.
Other programs under discussion tonight requiring ongoing costs include Juneau’s waste management program, with an operating budget of $600,000, and early childhood programs, which have a budget of about $1 million.
“This requires more research,” said Bartholomew. “I can’t say with much clarity tonight,” talking about possible holes in the budget related to changes in the state budget. The city’s schools require major repairs, including two roofs over the next two years, and major renovation, said Bartholomew. With state participation, the low estimate of budget for this is with $11 million for this year. But if there’s no support from the state, that estimate could be as high as $46 million. Other issues being researched for funding include a new parking solution near the State Office Building in downtown Juneau and a new city hall, which are estimated at $5 million and $8 million respectively.
The minutes are approved and the meeting proceeds. Deputy Mayor Maria Gladziszewski passes the meeting over to Finance Director Bob Bartholomew to discuss the high points. “The goal is to set a context for decision making,” said Bartholomew.
The Committee of the Whole is meeting tonight to discuss possibly putting an ordinance on the October 2019 municipal ballot about grant funding the New Juneau Arts and Culture Center, as well as possible modifications to the operating budget of the City and Borough of Juneau.
The ordinance, which proposes funding the overhaul of the New JACC through voter-approved sales tax, according to the Committee of the Whole, is expected to generate more than $60 million annually in economic activity for Juneau.
• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 523-2271 or email@example.com.