Bus service, ice rink on local fiscal wish list

Assembly to decide on budget requests

Posted: Wednesday, May 23, 2001

Laurie Magorty doesn't have a car and rides the city bus every day. She said a change in Capital Transit's schedule that sends buses around town every half hour instead of every hour has made a huge difference in her life.

"It's hard to get around," she said after getting off a bus at the Nugget Mall on Tuesday. "You missed the bus and had to wait another hour."

Capital Transit began providing half-hour service this month using revenue from Juneau's marine passenger fee. But the increase in service is scheduled to end this fall, unless the Juneau Assembly funds the program year-round. The Assembly Finance Committee is scheduled to make a decision about bus service and consider 16 other budget requests at a meeting tonight.

Patricia Lundstrom was using the bus for a trip to the pharmacy. She has spoken with Assembly members about the need for half-hour bus service and urged other riders to do the same.

"It's a lot easier, more convenient," she said. "Waiting an hour in the cold in winter is uncomfortable and irritating."

The city is projecting nearly $3.1 million in additional revenue in fiscal year 2002, although Assembly members have been hesitant about calling the amount a surplus. New budget requests from city departments, the school district and local organizations total $1.9 million, of which $764,000 are recurring costs, according to the city.

In addition to bus service, budget requests include three firefighter-medic positions, a city transportation planner, a proposed ice rink at Savikko Park in Douglas, $450,000 in school district funding, a performing arts center feasibility study and financial software. The Juneau Economic Development Council, Perseverance Theatre and the Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau also have asked for additional support. The Assembly Finance Committee has listened to presentations about the requests over the past month.

Capital Transit expects daily half-hour, year-round bus service to be partially offset by increased revenues and marine passenger fee proceeds for a net cost of $327,600.

Assembly Finance Committee Chairwoman Cathy Muoz said it is unlikely that everything will be funded, but half-hour bus service appears to have support.

"We have an opportunity this year to make that happen. A number of Assembly members would like to have benchmark measurable results," she said. A set percentage increase in ridership would help justify funding next fiscal year, she said.

Adding three firefighter-medics to Capital City Fire and Rescue's staff also appears to have support, Muoz said. The request would put staffing levels at the downtown fire station on a par with the rest of the borough, she said.

Assembly members also will discuss a contribution to the city's rainy day account and a possible decrease in the property tax mill rate, she said.

Tonight's meeting starts at 5 p.m. in Assembly chambers.

Joanna Markell can be reached at joannam@juneauempire.com.

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