Local News

State revenue sharing rescues Sitka's '12 general fund

SITKA, ALASKA
Dinley anticipates that the passage of House Bill 108 will mean extra revenue-sharing for municipalities from the state. He said Sitka would get an unexpected $306,000 from the state operating budget.

HB 108 also increases school support. Dinley said the Sitka district would see an additional $220,000, and as a result, could return that amount to city coffers. Dinley said the arrangement with the school district was worked out in advance just in case something like this happened.

The administration found other savings – among other places – in $20,000 of matching funds for an Edgecumbe Drive repaving project that will not happen in 2012, and $52,000 for a police officer who remains on active duty in the military.

When the dust settled, Dinley said a balanced budget was within reach for next year.

“To balance the shortfall, we only need to roll $57,512 from the current year FY ’11 monies, and we’ll have a balanced budget for the general fund.”

The 2012 Sitka budget tops $25-million, up about $900,000 from last year. Nevertheless, almost every department within the general fund is taking some kind of cut to make ends meet. Recreation is taking a $116,000 hit; the general office line item is down $46,000; and the legal department and municipal clerk are each seeing reductions of about $20,000.

The biggest increases in the 2012 general fund are salaries and benefits in most departments. The police department is up $269,000 over last year; the finance department is up $160,000, in part to cover a four-month contract with an interim finance director that could top $50,000.

Hearing that the budget was nearly balanced for next year was not the news that many in the audience at Thursday night’s meeting were expecting. Most seats were taken by representatives of Sitka’s nonprofits, who had come prepared to defend their municipal allocations. Jeff Budd is an Americorps volunteer working for the Greater Sitka Arts Council. Even though nonprofits had dodged a budget-bullet, he still used the opportunity to remind the assembly that nonprofit contributions created leverage for services that the city was unwilling or unable to provide.

“Who among you guys in the city is going to take care of the battered people, the addicted people, the old people, the young people that all these different nonprofits do? They’re saving you money. Prevention works – there’s evidence for that now. And a bunch of you guys work for nonprofits and I don’t understand how you don’t see the value of what the nonprofits bring.”

The assembly took no action on the general fund budget, preferring to wait until all members were present. The third and final assembly special budget meeting is scheduled for Thursday May 12 at 6 PM in Harrigan Centennial Hall.
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