The Assembly may award the administrator the power to establish furloughs – closing City Hall for the day – to help reduce city spending. (Emily Kwong/KCAW)

At their regular meeting Tuesday night (04-12-16), the Assembly reviewed policies that would change how the city administrator carries out official business.

One proposal would give the administrator the power to change daily and weekly hours of work and establish furlough days – basically closing city hall but keeping emergency services running – as a budget reduction measure.

A draft of the FY17 budget proposes six furlough days for next year, saving the city $200,000. The Citizens’ Task Force has voted to cut the general fund by $700,000 to close the budget gap and to absorb the reduction, Gorman said furloughs are an alternative to staff cuts. He also reminded the Assembly that furloughs wouldn’t happen without the approval of the unions. The city is currently engaged in union negotiations.

Gorman told the Assembly, “[This ordinance] puts the City and Borough of Sitka in a much stronger position if the Assembly has spoken on this issue — that [the Assembly] sees this as a tool that could be used during during tough, stressful budget times. Because I think if we go into negotiations without that backing of the Assembly, it weakens our position.”

Assembly member Tristan Guevin said he was hesitant to approve the furlough measure without employee input, but in the end, the Assembly voted unanimously in its favor on first reading.

The Assembly also, on first reading, moved to modernize the way the City Administrator procures contracts.

See draft of new procurement policy here: Ord 2016-12

The new language would give the administrator more flexibility over vendor solicitations, alternative contract methods, and grant him or her greater control over awarding contracts. City Administrator Mark Gorman said the goal of the policy is to streamline the procurement process.

Currently, the administrator has to obtain Assembly approval before awarding a contract over $50,000. Under the new rules, he or she would only need Assembly approval if the contract exceeds the appropriation amount. For example, last year the Assembly approved the purchase of a new fire truck after budgeting how much the administrator was allowed to spend. With this new policy, that decision would not circle back to the Assembly.

Gorman later told KCAW, “There is some concern over how much authority is passed to the Administrator. And my response to that, raised by a couple Assembly members outside of the meeting, was that you can evaluate that on an annual basis. If you feel the Administrator is not performing in the way intended, you can take action on that performance.”

The policy further specifies that prior to making any purchases less than $25,000, the administrator will request bids from local vendors. Furthermore, the administrator cannot split purchases for a single project into smaller transactions “with the intent to allow a lower level of review and approval.”

Several department heads wrote the document, including Utility Director Bryan Bertacchi, Public Works Director Michael Harmon, and Chief Finance and Administrative Officer Jay Sweeney.