Infrastructure, not pool, is priority

Letter to the editor

Posted: Tuesday, August 16, 2005

I have been pondering something and would like to share this thought with Juneau before the Assembly constructs the ballot measures regarding the sales tax at its Aug. 24 meeting.

During the 1990s oil supported general fund expenditures of roughly $2.3 to $2.5 billion annually with dips into the Constitutional Budget Reserve to meet shortfalls. Last year oil prices supported general fund expenditures of nearly $3.3 billion. Next fiscal year, if oil remains where it currently is, oil could support general fund expenditures of $5 billion, double the average of the 1990s.

From a management perspective, that would require every state employee to spend twice as much. This might strike you as funny, but it really is a management problem. In order to spend that much money, Alaska would need to increase its work force, in my estimation, at least 20 percent; that would mean 4,000 new state employees. If Juneau wants to maintain its proportion of state jobs, it would need office space for 1,000 new state workers. Every state worker is budgeted about 100 square feet for a total need of new office space of 100,000 square feet.

The state is a significant employer in Juneau, and therefore we cannot limit the housing-shortage discussion to just the newly created Coeur Alaska, Wal-Mart and Home Depot jobs. Construction takes time, and much like the discussion of Alaska natural gas, there is a window of opportunity: If we want to capture those new state jobs, those employees will need housing at a price they can afford when the jobs become available.

The Assembly will determine much about Juneau's future at its Aug. 24 meeting when they determine the ballot measure pertaining to sales tax. Many jobs will be gained or lost based on the ballot measures the Assembly creates for us voters.

Help the Assembly make the right choices for Juneau and ask them not to include a municipally owned and operated water park as an option but make the commitment to infrastructure that leads to sustainable economic and population growth. A Valley community center is needed and another pool with all the amenities described in the Dimond Center brochure and Web site would be awesome. It's a question of priorities and timing.

Bradley J. Fluetsch

Juneau



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