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Mayor's bond suggestion a go for CBJ Assembly Finance Committee

Posted: July 3, 2012 - 11:17am

A $25 million bond issue looks likely to appear on the ballot this October after the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Finance Committee voted 6-3 Monday evening to support its authorization.

The committee, with all nine members of the Assembly in attendance, voted to adopt Mayor Bruce Botelho’s motion recommending that the Assembly authorize a $25 million bond issue, with $10 million taken from a proposed five-year extension of the special 1 percent sales tax extension to help pay it down.

The approval of the bond issue effectively sacrificed $10 million from the $44.8 million in expected five-year available sales tax revenues, while providing the committee with $25 million to allocate in bond funds toward projects for which additional funding was requested from the sales tax revenues. That gave the committee a net $15 million more to allocate.

Assembly Member Ruth Danner said she opposed the idea of using sales tax revenues to help retire the bond.

“I really can’t support a bond if we don’t pay for it when we vote for it,” said Danner. She said taking money from a 1 percent sales tax extension for a bond issue sent the wrong message to voters.

Danner, joined by Assembly Members Randy Wanamaker and Mary Becker, voted “no” on Botelho’s motion.

The bond issue, as approved, left the committee with cuts to make. Members used a proposal list distributed by Assembly Member Karen Crane, who chairs the Finance Committee, as a starting point to reduce the total amount of allocations under consideration to slightly less than $59.5 million, providing a small “buffer” between the allocations and the amount available in case a sales tax extension raises less money than expected.

In her list, Crane cut funds for the Eaglecrest Ski Area Learning Center project from nearly $3.8 million requested down to $3.5 million, cut $3 million in allocations for a water filtration project almost in half, reduced $3 million requested for Sealaska Heritage Institute’s planned Walter Soboleff Center to $2 million and shaved $1 million from $5 million requested for Bartlett Regional Hospital’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Facility project.

Members offered no objection to the first two cuts, but several balked at cutting allocations for the other two.

“This is a self-supporting project,” said Assembly Member Carlton Smith of the Walter Soboleff Center. “It’s also a regional project. It’s not just about the Heritage Institute. This will be the pride of downtown Juneau.”

The $1 million Crane suggested should be cut from the Walter Soboleff Center allocation was ultimately redirected to come out of $9.3 million requested by Docks and Harbors, at Danner’s suggestion.

A motion by Wanamaker to restore the Bartlett project to $5 million failed 5-4. That brought the total in funding requests down to less than $59.5 million.

Assembly members also presented conflicting views on what the bond issue should cover, how it should be paid for and whether it should be authorized at all. Danner, Wanamaker and Becker suggested sales tax revenues should be applied toward “necessities” such as maintenance and renovations, while Crane joined Botelho in supporting a bond issue for transportation projects.

Through a series of votes, the committee produced a non-thematic list of items for bonding totaling slightly less than $25 million. Funding requests for Aurora Harbor, the Eaglecrest Learning Center, Centennial Hall renovations, Juneau International Airport terminal upgrades, and several Public Works and Parks and Recreation projects will be fulfilled through the bond under the committee’s recommendation, provided the public approves the bond.

On a motion by Botelho, the committee recommended intent language stating that if the bond issue fails but the sales tax extension succeeds, Centennial Hall should receive $3 million from the $10 million of sales tax revenues marked for bond retirement, while $7 million should go toward Docks and Harbors for the Aurora Harbor project.

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

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