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City panel narrows tax allocation list

Plans meeting next week to finish 1 percent tax decisions

Posted: June 28, 2012 - 11:11pm

The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly narrowed down a list of proposed projects to be funded by a special 1 percent sales tax in a heavily attended Finance Committee meeting Wednesday evening, but deferred final decisions until next week.

Assembly members found common ground to fund several projects, including deferred maintenance for Parks and Recreation facilities, the Lemon Creek neighborhood park and flooring for the Zach Gordon Youth Center. They also agreed to fund Centennial Hall and Juneau-Douglas City Museum upgrades, albeit after subtracting the amount of preexisting appropriations for each.

But the committee was unable to decide on whether to recommend the authorization of a bond issue to fund some of the projects. Such a bond, as proposed by Mayor Bruce Botelho, would allow the Assembly to allocate more than the $44.8 million in revenues the five-year special sales tax would generate – assuming the bond is approved by voters in October.

Botelho suggested a $25 million bond, with $10 million diverted from the sales tax revenue to partially fund it, to cover most transportation projects for which funding was requested.

All members said that they would consider the option toward the start of the three-hour meeting, but some voiced skepticism as the debate developed, and members disagreed on what projects it should cover.

“I need to sleep on the idea of the bond issue before we make a final decision on it,” Assembly Member Ruth Danner declared at one point.

There was also uncertainty over whether $850,000 left over from last year’s budget was placed into a rainy-day fund.

Assembly Member Randy Wanamaker said he wanted to determine how much is in the rainy-day fund already, for which City Manager Kim Kiefer requested $5 million from the sales tax, before proceeding. He said he meant for the leftover money to go into the fund.

“If we didn’t say it correctly, I know it’s what I intended,” said Wanamaker.

A number of projects for which funds were requested met with rejection from the committee. Remodeling for the Eaglecrest Ski Area lodge, the Marine Park “cultural gateway” and upgrades at Fish Creek Park were among those that found little support from Assembly members to receive sales tax funding.

Five million dollars in requests for the Juneau Arts and Culture Center’s proposed Performing Arts and Culture Center were cut to $1 million in the committee’s running tally, and Chicken Yard Park and Capital School Park also saw their requests cut.

The JACC reduction was by far the largest single cut on which the committee agreed during the meeting, and Finance Committee Chairwoman Karen Crane suggested it would take another meeting to make the rest of the cuts.

“I think at this point that we’re not making a great deal of progress,” said Crane.

The committee ended the meeting having cut the amount in requests under consideration to $63.1 million. The funds available from the five-year special 1 percent sales tax are $44.8 million.

On July 2, the Finance Committee will meet again to try to close the gap.

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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