What's a $297 million city budget anyway?

Posted: Sunday, December 13, 2009

The CBJ budget contains a budget philosophy page that ends with, "This annual budget is based upon citizen expectations, clearly articulated Assembly policies and Manager directives, maintenance of existing program levels, and expansion of health and safety services to protect life and property."

May "citizen expectations" be indefinitely satisfied, "clearly articulated Assembly policies and Manager directives" be without doubt, the "maintenance of existing program levels" never exclude, and may the "expansion of health and safety services to protect life and property" always guarantee us a good night's sleep.

Juneau has roughly 31,000 residents, living in approximately 13,000 households, enjoying a city budget of $297 million, of which $76 million comes from state and federal support.

So what? What's $297 million anyway?

• $297 million is equivalent to $9,580 per individual. Even if your toddler can't write a check and your folks finally made it to sales tax exempt status.

• $297 million is equivalent to $22,846 per household (and you thought your property taxes were high enough already).

• $297 million is significantly more cash than we use to purchase all the general merchandise sold in Juneau every year ($200 million).

• $297 million is $129 million more than Juneau's entire annual grocery bill ($168 million).

We have good schools don't we? Depends on what yard stick you use, but there are in fact roughly 6.8 students inside the Juneau School District for every full-time employee.

Now, don't get too worked up because some of that $297 million is in fact funds within funds, like the $99 million Enterprise Fund. Nonetheless, every fund, tax and fee makes the budget.

Reading the CBJ budget is therapeutic. You should read it and take some notes. It is bad, but not as bad as you think. The question is, is it sustainable?

One final note as we struggle forward as a community: Everybody talks the talk about diversifying the local economy, but here again few have any perspective or are willing to walk the walk. On that note, keep in mind 3,811 of us work for the State of Alaska, 869 of us work for the Federal Government, 738 of us work for the Juneau School District, 681 of us work for the City and Borough of Juneau, and 438 of us work for the University of Alaska Southeast. These are, respectively, the top five employers in the borough.

Enjoy the holidays Juneau and have a happy new year.

David Sanden


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