City budget draws cruise ship protest

Posted: Tuesday, June 06, 2000

After months of deliberations that included suggestions of $4 million shortfalls, major layoffs, service cutbacks and worse, the Juneau Assembly took five minutes at its Monday night meeting to pass a $159,842,000 fiscal 2001 budget.

Citizens are going to see the same level of service from Parks and Recreation, Bartlett Regional Hospital, the Juneau Airport, docks and harbors and Eaglecrest, according to assembly Finance Committee Chairman Dwight Perkins.

``There will be slight increases in user fees that we haven't raised in several years,'' he said. ``But, overall, the cuts will be more internal to city departments: They'll do more with less.''

Expected state revenue sharing cuts of 50 percent were pared down to 11 percent, and sales tax collections and property tax revenues will increase through fiscal 2001, Perkins said.

In addition, the city tightened its belt through much of fiscal 2000 and some cruise ship passenger fee revenues were directed to the general fund.

``These were less dire revenue developments than had been predicted, which has left us with a $600,000 surplus for the rainy day account,'' Perkins said.

Although no Juneau residents testified about the budget at Monday night's meeting, the cruise ship industry weighed in with a letter to the assembly denouncing the Finance Committee's inclusion of passenger fee revenues in the general fund. It urged the assembly not to approve the approximately $1 million allocation proposed by the Finance Committee.

``We submit to you that this allocation is not consistent with the purpose and intent of the original proposition,'' North West CruiseShip Association President John Hansen wrote to Mayor Dennis Egan and the assembly. ``Nor do we believe that the allocation is consistent with the city and borough's constitutional obligation to confine the use of fee proceeds to compensation for costs directly attributable to cruise ship traffic.''

The $5-per-person passenger fee was approved by voters last fall. It is expected to bring in $3 million this season.

The industry is paying careful attention to what the city is doing, said assembly member Tom Garrett. ``Another piece of this puzzle is port dues. We might not have to over-collect on port dues as we have in the past.''

The cruise industry is also keeping an eye on the Proceeds Advisory Committee's list of projects to be funded by passenger fee revenue, Garrett said.

The city-appointed committee is tasked with identifying projects passenger fee revenues could be spent on.

``If the list is bad and port dues remain the same, then litigation (against the city) by the cruise ship industry is inevitable,'' Garrett said.

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