At least five or six people are expected to attend Wednesday night’s City and Borough Assembly meeting to try and protect the Juneau-Douglas City Museum, which could be on the chopping block as the city determines its budget.
The museum is one of a handful of local services that could be cut in order for the city to balance its budget for the 2018 Fiscal Year. Tonight’s meeting, which takes place at 5 p.m. in the Assembly Chambers at City Hall, gives the public a chance to weigh in.
Joel Probst, President of the Friends of the Juneau-Douglas City Museum Board, said one of the main points he and others at the meeting will argue is how effectively the museum has managed its own budget over the years and how well it’s managed to keep programs afloat in light of past budget cuts.
The approach at the meeting, Probst said, is a simple one.
“The plan for tomorrow is to have as large of a presence as we physically possibly can,” Probst said, “and just stressing to the Assembly the value that that establishment represents, the services it does provide to the city that they haven’t taken into account or just overlooked.”
At the meeting, community members will have a chance to weigh in on the city’s mill rate, the overall operating budget, the city’s support for schools and the city’s recommendations for possible budget cuts in the 2018 fiscal year. There will also be a segment of the meeting open for non-agenda items, where people can share their thoughts on anything they’d like.
City Manager Rorie Watt said it’s unknown how many people will show up for this meeting. There were no public comments last year, but he expects at least a few people to testify Wednesday, especially about the city’s budget priorities.
“Since we’ve put our list of possible reductions out there,” Watt said, “I expect that there might be some comments targeted at some of those ideas.”
At the CBJ Assembly Finance Committee meeting April 12, Watt unveiled a list of possible cuts, using the city’s Priority-Driven Budget process as a reasoning for the cuts. During this process, where 90 locals ranked various CBJ services throughout town, the Juneau-Douglas City Museum ranked at the bottom, followed by the Jensen-Olson Arboretum, Mount Jumbo Gym and the Eagle Valley Center.
Watt said he’s received emails about those four services in particular, especially about the museum. Mount Jumbo Gym, which occupies the building that formerly housed Douglas High School, is a popular place for pickup basketball games or even the Kennel Club of Juneau. Eagle Valley Center is an outdoor excursion center.
The city’s budget process runs until May 14, when the Finance Committee hopes to have the budget smoothed out. These cuts are on the table in a budget process that seeks to erase a $1.9 million shortfall in the FY 2018 budget. Finance Director Bob Bartholomew has proposed taking $1.4 million from the city’s fund balance and reducing spending by $500,000. Cutting the City Museum could end up making $228,500 worth of room in the budget.
Those who enjoy the museum and the other services in question will have their time to speak directly to the Assembly members who will be deciding their fate, and Watt asks that people speak about the services in the context of the budget.
“We know that everybody has favorite public services, and we know that everybody wants low taxes,” Watt said, “and all I ask is that the public appreciate that the Assembly is doing the hard work of trying to balance those competing desires.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 523-2271