Local News

‘Tis the season: Assembly starts in on 2014 budget

Sitka Historical Society President John Stein testifies to the Assembly as Interim City Administrator Jay Sweeney looks on in the foreground. Stein is hoping the Assembly will restore a $20,000 cut in the city's contribution to his group. (KCAW photo by Ed Ronco)

Sitka Historical Society President John Stein testifies to the Assembly as Interim City Administrator Jay Sweeney looks on in the foreground. Stein is hoping the Assembly will restore a $20,000 cut in the city’s contribution to his group. (KCAW photo by Ed Ronco)

The Sitka Assembly took its first look at the city’s budget Thursday night. The work-session looked only at the general fund. It’s a $25 million pot of money the city uses to fund its basic day-to-day operations.

Funding remains mostly flat across city departments. There are slight increases in some places: a 2-and-a-half percent pay raise for non-union employees, along with salary increases for professional staff amounting to a total of $27,000.

The city is still in negotiations with two of its three labor unions.

Health insurance costs are going up, and so is funding to the Convention and Visitors Bureau. Road maintenance funding is going down from the previous year, by about $166,000.

And the city’s annual contribution to the Sitka Historical Society is cut by $20,000 in the current draft of the budget . Several members of the Historical Society showed up to the meeting. John Stein spoke for them.

“And I sort of feel like the Historical Society is the little seine tender that could,” said John Stein, president of the Historical Society. “We beat out the propeller so it’s running really smooth, we straightened the shaft, we put in fuel injection instead of carburetion, and we’ve really tried to streamline and professionalize our operation. And we turn around and we find the fuel hose is being pinched.”

The Society runs a museum inside Centennial Hall. In the last couple years, they’ve funded a full-time curator in addition to a director. Stein said the group was counting on flat-funding from the city when it wrote its five-year budget. He urged the Assembly to restore the funding.

In the hour-long meeting, Assembly members got a rough overview of the fund but did not go into much detail.

That will change between now and the end of May.  There are several scheduled work-sessions and meetings to decide how the city will spend its money in the next year. So, the Assembly has some time to figure out the budget.

And so do we. Over the next few weeks, KCAW plans to look at particular aspects of the spending plan to help you understand how the city spends money. Have questions? Comment below and we’ll try to get some of them answered.

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