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Kiefer recommends cuts if mill rate not increased

Assembly approved 0.23 mill increase for FY14

Posted: April 17, 2013 - 8:09pm  |  Updated: April 18, 2013 - 12:09am

Juneau City Manager Kim Kiefer presented Wednesday evening a list of suggested cuts to city services in the fiscal year 2014 budget to compensate for the loss of expected revenue if the Assembly decides to backtrack on its approval of a mill rate increase for next fiscal year.

Kiefer’s list came in response to direction from the Borough Assembly Finance Committee at its April 3 meeting. She presented the list to the Finance Committee at its meeting Wednesday.

The mill rate, which describes the property tax paid by Juneau residents, is set to go up by 0.23 mills. It currently stands at 10.55, as it has since 2011.

Kiefer said the mill rate increase is expected to bring in slightly more than $1 million in revenue, which would help support services provided by the City and Borough of Juneau.

If the Assembly decides not to increase the mill rate, Kiefer is recommending the elimination of school resource police officers and staff positions in Capital City Fire/Rescue and the Public Works Department, as well as the reduction of hours at the Dimond Park Aquatic Center — which would be closed after 10:30 a.m. Monday under Kiefer’s proposal — and the Mendenhall Valley and Douglas public libraries.

The savings in Kiefer’s list total almost $1.09 million, much of which would come from staffing cuts.

“You will not hear me talk about specific staffing reductions, because we need to go through a process if we’re going to go through layoffs,” Kiefer said. “So in general, we’ll be looking at what those reductions will be. The total amount will be what’s shown on here. What the actual positions will be will be yet to be determined, depending upon what the outcome of the (process) is.”

Other recommendations in Kiefer’s list for if the mill rate is not raised include using more salt instead of synthetic deicer on roads and sidewalks, using “recycled asphalt aggregate” instead of hot asphalt mix for patching roadways, ending bus service to North Douglas, halving the city’s spending on Juneau Parks and Recreation youth scholarships, reducing Youth Activity Grants, cutting the budget for prisoner care, and getting rid of garbage cans and portable restrooms in certain parks.

Assemblymember Johan Dybdahl advised his colleagues to hold off on taking any immediate action on Kiefer’s recommendations.

“My preference would be to go ahead, take this list, let the public (know), and then check your email here about it in the next few days, because from now on, because I think something like this is going to start a firestorm,” said Dybdahl.

But Assemblymember Randy Wanamaker, who has long pushed for lower property taxes in Juneau, said the Assembly should consider not increasing the mill rate as “the best economic solution for our community.”

“This is a preliminary list, a draft list,” Wanamaker remarked. “Things can be changed if they need to be later on.”

A mill is defined as one-tenth of a penny, or one-thousandth of a dollar. Thus, the current 10.55 mill rate works out to $1,055 per $100,000 in assessed property value.

The mill rate is also set to increase 0.11 mills due to a voter-approved levy for debt service next year. That increase was not under discussion at Wednesday’s meeting.

Assemblymember Karen Crane, chairwoman of the Finance Committee, said that the assemblymembers should take more time to consider the list and revisit it at a future meeting.

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

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