City manager proposes cuts of 4.4% across departments

Posted: Friday, April 07, 2000

After 7,000 hours of work on the budget by city staff, City Manager Dave Palmer handed over the draft document Thursday night to the Juneau Assembly's Finance Committee.

``I'm optimistic about this year's budget,'' Palmer said.

The measure proposes an across-the-board 4.4 percent cut in all city departments, including the school district.

Members of the assembly and city staff estimated earlier this year that city coffers would be short $4 million for fiscal 2001 and the same amount for 2002.

But the picture has changed with the rise in property assessments - particularly on beachfront and commercial properties - plus increased sales tax collection and the expectation that the Legislature won't cut revenue sharing as much as it had planned.

The upshot of those changes means seven city staff could face layoffs, although adjustments in the budget could save those jobs as well, Palmer said.

Firefighters had also been contemplating the ax after the Airport Board decided not to pay the city $200,000 for fire protection it said it doesn't need.

But that airport income loss ``has been absorbed in the general fund,'' and so no firefighters will be laid off, Palmer said.

``It's clearly not as grim as we were expecting last summer,'' said assembly member Tom Garrett. ``But we're not out of the woods yet.

``By my seat-of-the-pants calculation, I'd estimate the city is still short about $2 million for 2001,'' he said.

Some of the income the city is counting on could be problematical, Garrett said, referring to Palmer's earlier call to fund an administrative assistant's salary with revenues from the cruise ship passenger fee.

``How much of the passenger fee can legitimately go into the general fund remains to be seen,'' Garrett said.

He said the city would look at lessening its financial load in a number of areas. These include increases in user fees for services provided by Parks and Recreation; payments in lieu of property taxes by city enterprises such as Docks and Harbor and Bartlett Regional Hospital; and possible reduction of prisoner incarceration costs to the city.

The city charter mandates that the assembly approve the budget by June 15.

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