Local News

State of the City: ‘Better than many’

Sitka Mayor Mim McConnell told the Chamber that the city is delaying major maintenance to make ends meet next year. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

Sitka Mayor Mim McConnell told the Chamber that the city will postpone major maintenance to make ends meet next year. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

The state of the city is… not too bad, according to Sitka Mayor Mim McConnell.

McConnell reported on the economic and social health of the community to the Sitka Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.

The mayor drew extensively for her presentation from a budget cover letter drafted by former city administrator Jim Dinley shortly before his resignation. The letter summarizes the overall condition of the municipal budget, and provides a department-by-department synopsis of the city’s major enterprise funds.

But Mayor McConnell also offered some of her own analysis in this excerpt.

So we’re in amazingly good shape compared to other cities around the country and in Alaska. The City and Borough of Sitka has been operating in the black for years, which is hard to find these days. Our unemployment rate in 2012 was a low 5.6 percent, which is also pretty amazing. Sales and bed tax revenues have slightly increased, which is good news. And we have a motivated citizenry who are interested in creating a healthy, sustainable community. So for future balanced budgets, including this one, there are some things to think about, and a fresh perspective to consider. The first two are the questions that all of us need to be thinking about and talking to your assembly members about: What level of sustainable governmental services are you willing to pay for? What level of support are you willing to provide the school district? And then something a little bit different to think about: As a community, we need to holistically look at all the critical needs together — education, public safety, social services — as opposed to only within the confines of each institution.

Following her remarks, the mayor brought public works director Michael Harmon forward to outline some of the major municipal projects currently underway — or soon to be underway — in Sitka. Harmon describe over $160-million in projects — everything from dredging Swan Lake and building the sea walk, to the repaving of both Halibut Point and Sawmill Creek roads — that will be happening over the next two years.

The $160-million price tag is mostly grant funded, and does not include work on the $142-million Blue Lake hydro expansion.

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