What city cuts mean

Reductions in 2001 budget hit fire, police, and other city services

Posted: Tuesday, May 30, 2000

What the sound and the fury of the city's fiscal 2001 budget deliberations signify for the average Juneau resident ranges from the possible irritation of getting voice mail when you call the city attorney to the possible irritation that you'll have to pay for fire protection you were getting for free in Thane and at the Juneau Airport.

The airport has been paying the city $180,000 a year for aircraft-related fire and rescue protection. But the airport board recently got its fire rating changed and is now pocketing for airport use what it was paying the city. With the old rating, hangars and other airport properties received fire protection under the general airport umbrella, but didn't pay for it, according to City Manager Dave Palmer. Now they will.

The same goes for Thane.

``The area is not within the fire service area, but is provided emergency fire service,'' Palmer said. ``If we get a call, the fact is our trucks will roll.'' The people who get property tax bills will be charged.

The city is trying to maintain equity for everybody, he said.

Capital Fire and Rescue is also reducing its ``fleet reserve contributions,'' said Fire Chief Mike Doyle.

That means less money annually for the department's truck-buying fund.

``We put such little mileage on the trucks, it shouldn't impact service,'' he said.

The Juneau Police Department is also going to try to make its vehicles last longer. Currently, patrol cars are replaced every 18 months and sold. Now they will be handed down to others in the department -- such as community service officers -- to extend their useful life.

Fiscal changes in the police department are not expected to affect Juneau residents.

``They won't affect the number of officers out there, or the number of citations written,'' said Palmer.

The Community Development Department will increase building permit and other fees. The current fee structure hasn't been reviewed in some time, with the result that fees in Juneau are significantly lower than those of Anchorage and other communities, said department Director Cheryl Easterwood.

``Zone change fees, for example, will go from $250 to $500,'' Easterwood said. ``In Anchorage, those fees run between $500 and $1,500.''

The city's Parks and Recreation Department is realizing some savings by tightening up on some of the contracts it lets, Duncan said, as well as cutting down on new-vehicle purchases and dumping its Youth Adventure Club for city youths.

The department is also hiking its income by charging more for what it sells.

Youth sports fees will jump from $30 to $35. Zach Gordon Youth Center fees will go up for facility rentals, the weight room, racquetball court and climbing wall. Youth lesson fees at Augustus Brown Pool will increase from $4 to $4.50 per 30-minute class. Private pool rentals will rise from $75 to $85 per hour. Commercial use of the pool will go from $85 to $95.

The predicted total decrease from that part of fiscal 2000's operating budget that is supported by tax dollars -- that is, exclusive of such divisions as utilities, which support themselves -- is less than 1 percent. And the effects of the cuts seem more or less benign.

But in a presentation on the city budget process at a Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Friday, Finance Committee Chairman Dwight Perkins pointed to the initial predictions of $4 million annual deficits and the city's corresponding, other-than-benign reaction to that dismal prospect.

``The change in the Health and Social Services Department meant more than 60 positions were out,'' Perkins said, explaining that the department's red ink had been getting redder.

Shutting down that department ``won't produce any immediate savings in 2001,'' he said, but it won't contribute to the deficit, either.

Other, less direct, personnel cuts during fiscal 2000 produced ``savings'' that were moved forward to balance the 2001 budget, Perkins said.

Positions in several departments were ``held vacant,'' which means when somebody left or retired, he or she wasn't replaced.

These positions included an Engineering Department director (since filled), a Finance Department appraiser, a legal secretary (hence the voice mail), various personnel in the Personnel Department, an assistant chief of police (now filled), and a police captain.

Perkins said that all concerned in putting together the city budget have done good work -- witness the minimal impacts -- but predicted a statewide tax cap proposal looming on the November ballot could cut revenues to the city by another $1.6 million.

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