Robert Barr, deputy city manager; Rorie Watt, city manager; Jeff Rogers, city finance director; and Adrien Speegle, a budget analyst, participate Wednesday night in a City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Finance Committee meeting. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Robert Barr, deputy city manager; Rorie Watt, city manager; Jeff Rogers, city finance director; and Adrien Speegle, a budget analyst, participate Wednesday night in a City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Finance Committee meeting. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Uncertainty looms as city begins its budget process

A deficit is projected, additional federal funds are not.

The first thing to know is a lot is unknown about next year’s “really unusual” proposed city budget since, even if the worst of the pandemic appears to be over, plenty of lingering impacts remain, City and Borough of Juneau Assembly members were told Wednesday night.

“We have the next seven Wednesday nights to figure things out and eventually you have to make a lot of decisions,” said Jeff Rogers, the city’s finance director, during a finance committee meeting intended to provide an initial broad overview of the draft budget. “Tonight is just to get rooted, more details on various pieces will come to you.”

There’s a proposed 0.1% increase setting the property tax mill rate at 10.66 mills, for example, but homeowners may feel significantly more impact due to residential property increasing by an average of more than 9% in assessed value during the past year. And while the budget projects a nearly 90% increase in fees largely related to cruise tourism, it also expects a 68% drop in federal funds since no further pandemic-related assistance is forecast.

[With federal funds falling away, city readies its budget]

City leaders will also grapple with the same unpredictably high inflation that residents face, but at the governing level there are both positives from the income it generates along with the negatives of higher costs — not to mention the amount of inflation is vastly different for items ranging from fuel to property to flat-screen TVs, Rogers said.

One certainty is the assembly is beginning the evaluation of next year’s proposed $408 million budget, which is $26.9 million lower than the current year, with a $3.4 million deficit that will grow larger.

“What’s not in the budget yet is the negotiated budget increase that the assembly is talking about in executive session,” Rogers said. “So that’s a big placeholder.”

The city faced a $5.4 million deficit in the current year’s budget, which turned into a $7 million surplus due to cuts made by the assembly and subsequent federal funding that allowed services to generally continue undisturbed, he noted. But there’s a different mindset for the year ahead.

“The budget generally assumes that the pandemic stays with us, but shifts toward an endemic that we manage not as a personal health emergency,” Rogers said.

Notable projected increases in income compared to the current year are a 24.4 % increase in sales taxes, 10.7% in charges for services and 89.7% in licenses/permits/fees — all to some degree due to tourism returning to near-normal levels. Also notable is an expected 6.4% increase in property tax revenue, factoring that commercial assessments rose at a considerably lower level during the past year than residential properties.

The increase in service charges also includes revenue expected from a new mental and behavioral health facility at Bartlett Regional Hospital. That facility also accounts for 51 of the 57.5 more full-time-equivalent employees the budget anticipates, with nearly all of the remainder being 5.5 harbor technician positions necessary to meet U.S. Coast Guard port security requirements and redesignate existing positions.

Among the questions raised by assembly members is if the proposed budget is overly pessimistic in its deficit projection.

“It’s alarming we have this deficit, but my memory is pre-pandemic we constantly underestimated revenues,” said Assembly member Michelle Bonnet Hale. She acknowledged “we’re coming out of this two-year period of time where who knows what’s going to happen” and therefore a conservative mentality is warranted, as long as it’s not overly so.

City Manager Rorie Watt emphasized “this is a really unusual budget” that’s a moving target due to “highly volatile numbers.” Among the many things to consider is if some of the city’s reserves balance should be used to cover a shortfall while also looking ahead to future years where “we really can’t hang our hats on what those years will look like.”

“For me I think the best thing that I can articulate…is let’s not overreact,” he said. “I think the public appreciates that nice, stable governmental approach.”

Additional finance committee meetings to review the proposed budget are scheduled April 13, April 20, April 27, May 4, May 11 and May 18. The public will be able to comment on the city’s operating budget, Juneau School District’s operating budget, capital improvement plan and property tax mill levy rate at a public hearing during a regular Juneau Assembly meeting at 7 p.m. April 25.

• Contact Reporter Mark Sabbatini at

More in News

A Princess Cruise Line ship is docked in Juneau on Aug. 25, 2021. (Michael Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Ships in Port for the week of Sept. 25

Here’s what to expect this week.

Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire
Faith Rogers’ loved ones, from left to right, James Rogers (father), Michelle Rogers (sister), Harmony Wentz (daughter), Maria Rogers (mother) and Mindy Voigt (friend) sit with Faith’s three dogs in their family home. Faith Rogers, 55, of Juneau was found dead along a popular trail on Wednesday, Sept. 21. Police are investigating the death as a homicide.
‘It’s shocking’: Family hopes for answers after suspicious death of loved one

“She wanted to make things beautiful, to help make people beautiful…”

People work together to raise the Xa’Kooch story pole, which commemorates the Battle of the Inian Islands. (Shaelene Grace Moler / For the Capital City Weekly)
Resilient Peoples & Place: The Xa’Kooch story pole — one step toward a journey of healing

“This pole is for the Chookaneidi, but here among us, many clans are represented…”

A bracket fungus exudes guttation drops and a small fly appears to sip one of them.( Courtesy Photo / Bob Armstrong)
On the Trails: Water drops on plants

Guttation drops contain not only water but also sugars, proteins, and probably minerals.

A chart shows what critics claim is poor financial performance by the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, especially in subsidizing private industry projects intended to boost the state’s economy, during its 55-year existence. The chart is part of a report released Tuesday criticizing the agency. (MB Barker/LLC Erickson & Associates/EcoSystems LLC)
AIDEA’s fiscal performance fishy, critics say

Report presented by salmon industry advocates asserts state business subsidy agency cost public $10B

Police vehicles gather Wednesday evening near Kaxdigoowu Héen Dei, also known as ]]Brotherhood Bridge Trail, while investigating a homicide. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Police: Woman was walking dogs when she was killed

JPD said officers are working “around the clock” on the criminal investigation.

In this photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, a Coast Guard Cutter Kimball crew-member observes a foreign vessel in the Bering Sea, Monday, Sept. 19, 2022. The U.S. Coast Guard cutter on routine patrol in the Bering Sea came across the guided missile cruiser from the People's Republic of China, officials said Monday, Sept. 26.  (U.S. Coast Guard District 17 via AP)
Patrol spots Chinese, Russian naval ships off Alaska island

This wasn’t the first time Chinese naval ships have sailed near Alaska waters.

An Alaska judge has ruled that a state lawmaker affiliated with the Oath Keepers, Rep. David Eastman, shown in this February 2022 photo, may stay on the general election ballot in November even though he's likely ineligible to hold public office  (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Judge keeps Oath Keepers lawmaker on November ballot

Judge ordered delaying certifying the result of the race until a trial scheduled for December.

Water rushes down Front Street, just a half block from the Bering Sea, in Nome, Alaska, on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022 as the remnants of Typhoon Merbok moved into the region. It was a massive storm system — big enough to cover the mainland U.S. from the Pacific Ocean to Nebraska and from Canada to Texas. It influenced weather systems as far away as California, where a rare late-summer storm dropped rain on the northern part of the state, offering a measure of relief to wildfire crews but also complicating fire suppression efforts because of mud and loosened earth. (AP Photo / Peggy Fagerstrom)
Repair work begins in some Alaska towns slammed by storm

ANCHORAGE — There’s been significant damage to some roads and homes in… Continue reading

Most Read