Pool stays afloat, but CBJ pulls plug on six more jobs

Assembly finance committee makes final decisions

Augustus Brown Swimming Pool will stay open for at least the next year, the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly finance committee decided Wednesday.


The committee decided to restore the $250,000 cut from the budget by city manager Kim Kiefer to keep the pool up and running.

The city manager proposed mothballing the pool, which needs millions in maintenance, until it can be determined if repairing the facility is worth it. But after about 30 people spoke against closing the pool at a recent Assembly meeting, the group decided to take it off the budget reduction list.

The pool will still undergo a review to see what needs fixing. The Assembly will revisit the pool issue during next year’s budgeting cycle once it has the findings of the investigation.

The Assembly unanimously brought Augustus Brown back from the cut list, but assemblyman Jerry Nankervis said he wants the Assembly to seriously consider putting the pool under the purview of an empowered board. The pool costs the city about $900,000 to operate annually but brings in only $200,000 in revenue.

“I can’t support something that is subsidized at this level,” he said.

The goal Wednesday evening was to cut $6 million from the CBJ budget to balance it for fiscal year 2015. Committee chairwoman Karen Crane said at the beginning of the meeting that she aimed to finalize the budget that night.

The Assembly went through all remaining budget reductions from the city manager’s first proposal — including the Augustus Brown Swimming Pool — as well as the manager’s second reductions list, which she presented at last week’s finance committee meeting.

The group went through each item, approving most. By the time it finished its list of city service and program reductions, about $1.8 million had been eliminated from the budget.

Overall, about six full-time jobs were eliminated. The city’s deputy fire marshal and the school district’s resource police officer positions were saved from the chopping block.

A recreation coordinator position was cut, which will result in the elimination of the adult basketball program and associated game officials.

Treadwell Arena’s operation was decreased to eight months, turning most full-time positions into 10-month positions. Summer programs will be eliminated. These changes won’t take effect until next summer.

In the Public Works department, a couple short-term temporary snow removal employees were eliminated, as was the vacant position of deputy director. Not filling that position, as well as cutting the snow removal jobs, will save the city $157,900.

In the Community Development Department, a code compliance officer was eliminated, saving about $100,000. Because of this, “planners and building inspectors (will) have to investigate code complaints,” the manager’s proposal stated. Assemblyman Jesse Kiehl argued against putting this responsibility on higher-paid city employees and extending the permitting process, but the group ultimately voted to eliminate the officer position.

A full list of the manager’s additional recommended budget reductions can be found online at www.juneau.org/clerk/documents/Manageradditionalreductions2014-04-30.pdf.

Cuts to Capital Transit and the Juneau School District were also on the Assembly’s “pending list.” The group voted to cut $100,000 from the public transit system’s current budget — a $300,000 cut from the budget proposed in the city’s new transit plan. The cut reduces Back Loop Road service to twice a day — one run in the morning, one in the evening.

After a lot of back and forth, the school district was funded at the approximately $25 million initially proposed by the city manager. This is the same amount the Assembly funded the district last year, but well below the state-imposed funding cap for this year. The Assembly historically funds the district to the cap.

JSD Board of Education President Sally Saddler wrote a letter to the assembly earlier this week, asking it to fund the district to the cap — which would mean an additional $769,000 coming out of city coffers. She said the additional money would keep class sizes flat.

Kiehl and assemblyman Randy Wanamaker debated funding levels. Kiehl said he wanted to find a way to give the district as much as possible, even if the city can’t make it to the cap.

“It’s with a very heavy heart that I acknowledge we can’t get there this year,” he said. “But I strongly believe we should fund our schools to the maximum amount we are able.”

Wanamaker said he was wary of giving the district more money that he feared it would use on new curriculum rather than restoring teacher jobs.

Crane reminded him that elected bodies don’t always do what we want them to do, but its their responsibilities to make decisions regardless.

“I would say, Mr Wanamaker, that they have a duly elected school board,” she said. “I don’t believe that we’re doing everything tonight that the public has suggested we do. ... While we can suggest whatever amount we want, it is up to that (school) board to decide what to do with it.”

After much discussion, the group voted to stick with the $25 million they decided upon previously.

The Assembly also cut approximately $100,000 in grants to local organizations: the Juneau Festival Committee; the Juneau Economic Development Council; the Juneau Small Business Development Center; the Juneau After School Coalition; AYEC-HEARTS; the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council; the Youth Activities Board; and the Social Services Advisory Board.

A full list of grant cuts can be found online at www.juneau.org/clerk/documents/FY15AssemblyGrantSummary.pdf. The Assembly ended up cutting $25,000 from JEDC’s grant, rather than the $16,300 recommended by the city manager.

Assemblymembers were asked to give ideas for further cuts. Nankervis suggested cutting deputy city manager Rob Steedle’s job and that of his assistant. This would save the city $287,000 per year. Nankervis argued the responsibilities of the position could be covered by Kiefer and finance director Bob Bartholomew.

“I think it’s just the right thing to do, to try and balance our budget,” Nankervis said.

The Assembly voted down Nankervis’ proposal, but Mayor Merrill Sanford asked that the positions to be noted on a list of jobs to look at in the following year. The Assembly has a goal of looking at the city payroll and weeding out unnecessary jobs in the next year.

The budget must still go before the Assembly for final approval.

Editor’s note: The meeting was still in progress at press time. A follow-up on property tax increase and the city’s fund balance will be available Thursday.


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