Presenting recommended cuts to balance Juneau’s $12 million deficit, city manager Kim Kiefer listed 19.29 full-time positions that may be cut in the next two fiscal years.
In front of a packed hall, Kiefer, supported by finance department director Bob Bartholomew, said the proposal is “a place for us to start the discussions we’ll have over the next eight or 10 weeks.”
The Parks and Recreation Department would receive more cuts to services and jobs than any other department — $1 million over two years.
Those cuts include the indefinite closure of the downtown Augustus Brown Swimming Pool starting Nov. 3. The closure will save the city a quarter of a million dollars in 2015 and a half a million in 2016, according to a report Kiefer gave to the city Aquatic Facility Advisory Board on Tuesday. Some Augustus Brown employees will be transferred to Dimond Park Aquatic Center to reinstate its Monday hours, and the pool will be kept mothballed.
The 40-year-old pool costs about $900,000 annually and brings in about $200,000 in revenue, Kiefer said. It needs millions of dollars in improvements, she said. An evaluation of the facility will be finished in July. At that point, the city will better know what repairs are needed and if and when the pool will be reopened.
The proposed reductions include 11.33 fewer full-time jobs in the department over two years: 4.25 in FY2015 and 7.08 in FY2016. The fractions come from part-time positions included in the cuts.
The closure of Mt. Jumbo Gym in FY2016 was also proposed.
The cuts “absolutely will” impact the Parks and Recreation Department, recreation superintendent Myiia Wahto said after the meeting. However, she said, people who will be impacted by the closures are already reacting to the budget proposal.
“Calls and emails are already pouring in,” she said.
The department would like to keep the downtown pool open if at all possible, Wahto said, but it will do what it has to “if that’s going to be asked of us.”
“We know it’s old,” she said. “The assembly might have some ideas of their own of how to balance the budget.”
The Aquatic Facility Advisory Board decided at its Tuesday meeting to write a letter of its own to the assembly, asking the group to look for other options besides closing the downtown pool.
Other cuts included one to the Juneau School District. The city had been planning to raise funding to the district by $200,000 in FY2015 and by $300,000 in FY2016. But Kiefer proposed keeping funding flat.
Although the cut “would be a reduction in funding,” the city isn’t “telling (the district) where they would take it out,” Bartholomew said after the meeting. It will be up to the district, which budgeted for the funding increases, to decide where to make reductions.
Funding and staffing cuts to the library system would reduce hours at the Douglas and downtown libraries and at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum.
The city manager also proposed tweaking the city’s new transit plan to reduce the frequency of buses during non-peak hours. The new Riverside Drive route would still be added, she said, but buses would be less frequent, eliminating $200,000 from the existing Capital Transit budget. The new transit plan added $200,000 to the department’s budget, which means the department would be getting a $400,000 cut, deputy city manager Rob Steedle said after the meeting.
In total, the city plans to save $3.6 million through cuts. A complete list of proposed reductions can be found online at http://www.juneau.org/clerk/ASC/FC/2014/documents/2014-04-02_AFC_Packet.pdf.
The remaining deficit would be balanced by a property tax increase, city department fee and rate increases, and by dipping into the city’s general government fund and budget reserve.
The proposed property tax increase would amount to approximately $142 extra per year on a $300,000 home, Bartholomew said. Increasing property taxes would add $1.9 million to the budget both years.
The assembly has already approved the use of $2.3 million from the general government fund in FY2015 and $2.1 million in FY2016 to balance the budget.
Assemblymember Randy Wanamaker requested the assembly consider more spending reductions instead of increasing taxes and dipping into the budget reserve.
Kiefer said after the meeting that budget cuts “always change” during the budgeting process. Right now, the city doesn’t know how much state funding will be coming its way, she said, which could change things.
“We don’t have a clue what the state’s doing,” she said. “We start our process about a month earlier than they do.”
Bartholomew said he’d “be amazed” if everything they proposed Wednesday night was adopted in the end.
Budget discussions will take place at assembly finance committee meetings at 5:30 p.m. every Wednesday until the budget is adopted by June 15. Public comment on the budget will be taken at the April 28 assembly meeting.