After reviewing a proposed budget that would include some rate increases, some assembly members want to see cuts to the enterprise funds. At a special meeting of the Sitka Assembly last Thursday night (1/31/19), assembly members directed city staff to draft a budget cutting 3 percent from all enterprise funds.
After city staff presented their tentative plan for each fund, including water, wastewater, solid waste, harbors, and electricity, assembly member Kevin Mosher made a motion for staff to prepare a 10 percent cut to each fund. Assembly member Aaron Bean seconded the motion.
Chief Financial Officer Jay Sweeney voiced his concern.
“There are gonna be critical, critical consequences to doing this,” Sweeney said. “We think it is extremely risky and unwise. There needs to be the chance for department heads to make their case as to that. Certainly, we will abide by the will of the assembly. But I feel really compelled to make that point.”
Assembly member Valorie Nelson, said she was uncomfortable with cuts as high as 10 percent.
“I have a hard time wrapping my head around ten percent. I just don’t think that’s responsible,” Nelson said. I think more in the neighborhood of two-and-a-half to three percent and seeing what the dire consequences are.”
So Bean asked for the motion to be amended to reflect a 3 percent cut across the board for enterprise funds. That motion passed 4-2 with assembly member Kevin Knox and Mayor Gary Paxton voting against. Assembly member Steven Eisenbeisz was not in attendance.
City Staff presented several options for the FY2020 enterprise funds earlier in January, and at the meeting on Thursday they continued that discussion. The budget the city administrator proposed on Thursday night included no increases in fees for electric or water for FY2020. The monthly rates for waterwater and solid waste would increase by just under $8 total, while the monthly moorage rate in harbors would increase by just over $8.
Sweeney asked if he could have at least three weeks to develop a draft of a budget that would include cuts to each department. And Paxton had some advice.
“Go ahead and do a macro deal,” Paxton said “On the back of a napkin, type thing. Just to get a feel for what it is. Send it out to the assembly so they know. We’ve got a lot of important stuff going on now. More important than this task.”
The assembly also voted unanimously to postpone the next presentation of the FY2020 enterprise fund budget and move up the presentation of the general fund budget, originally scheduled for April. The date for that meeting has not been determined.