City officials are staring down a $1.5 million budget deficit in 2015, and more than twice that the following year.
The $3.47 million shortfall in FY 2016 means the City and Borough of Juneau will be about $4.9 million in the red over the next two years.
City Finance Director Bob Bartholomew presented the budget forecast Monday to the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Committee of the Whole.
“That’s the challenge that we’re working through now,” Bartholomew said of balancing the city’s budget.
He said about 34 percent of the budget shortfall is due to “the loss of existing revenues.” The missing sources of income were the “biggest surprise” for Bartholomew as he began the budgeting process, he said.
Among these losses were federal grants for transit and the Juneau Police Department, he said.
“The (JPD) positions are being maintained but federal funding is gone,” Bartholomew said. “They’re maintained with general government revenues.”
Lower city sales and property tax increases than projected in 2014 also led to the shortfall, he said. The city will have only $1.4 million left over from FY 2014 to roll over to next year, as opposed to the $3 or $4 million it usually has.
“The budgets are much, much tighter,” Bartholomew said.
City Manager Kim Kiefer said she’ll develop three to four different plans for coming up with the $4.9 million. She’ll present the options to the Assembly Finance Committee on March 19.
“I’ll be coming back with a number of scenarios with what I need to do to balance the budget,” Kiefer said. “Included in those scenarios are reductions to services.”
She said these scenarios will include job cuts.
“At this point we would have to have a reduction in employees to be able to have any kind of significant reduction in services,” Kiefer said.
Bartholomew said the city budget does not include Gov. Sean Parnell’s proposed $85 base student allocation increase, which would bump up the state’s per-student funding.
The Spuhn Island Verizon cellphone tower was also up for discussion. Assistant City Manager Rob Steedle presented the findings of an investigation of the placement of the 155-foot tower, topped with a blinking red light that can be seen from Juneau’s residential neighborhoods. Juneau residents have testified at recent public meetings against the placement of the tower.
Steedle said the light, which shines to alert aircraft of the tower’s presence, is the lowest intensity and flashes the least allowed by the Federal Aviation Administration, Steedle said.
Mayor Merrill Sanford made a successful motion to discontinue investigation of the tower’s placement.
“These are across the nation, these regulations,” he said. “Staff has looked at all the angles and hasn’t been able to come up with anything to do.”
Committee member Jesse Kiehl said the whole investigation has been “very disappointing” and the city has tackled the issue with a defeatist attitude.
“It’s centered around the fact that (the tower is) already done,” Kiehl said.
Also at its Monday meeting, the Committee of the Whole forwarded on the 2014 Transit Development Plan to the Assembly for adoption.
The Assembly will now get the final say on the plan, which alters the bus schedule and adds a route in the Mendenhall Valley. The full plan can be viewed online at juneautransitplan.org.
• Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.