When the Sitka Assembly meets tonight (5-23-23), it will consider, on final reading, whether to approve the city’s budget for FY’24.
The budget takes months to prepare. The assembly began meeting in January to review and agree on different parts of the budget, like school funding and enterprise funds. And the city’s bottom line has grown. Sales tax revenue increased last year, and more growth is projected as the tourism industry rebounds.
But costs have increased too. According to a memo from Finance Director Melissa Haley, next year’s budget will include an estimated 14% increase in spending. Haley attributes that increase mostly to inflation, increased tourism and “maintaining momentum on improvements to municipal operations.” The assembly also budgeted more money for infrastructure improvements and repairs, after cutting back during the pandemic. Even with increased spending, the general fund budget will end up with a surplus of just over $17,000.
The enterprise fund budgets are also being considered tonight on final reading. Electric, water, wastewater, solid waste and moorage will see rate increases this year– again to keep up with inflation and the increased costs of capital projects. The city is also taking on some new debt, including a $7 million loan to fund a new disinfection system for the wastewater treatment plant to meet new federal requirements.
In other business, the assembly will also consider updating the city code to require permits for all entertainers in public spaces, not just musicians. It will consider authorizing leases for the Marine Service Center to two seafood companies – Seafood Producers Cooperative and North Pacific Seafoods. And it will consider the yearly goals for the Health Needs and Human Services Commission, which gathers data and makes policy recommendations to improve the overall health of Sitka.
The Sitka Assembly meets at 6 p.m. tonight. Raven News will broadcast the meeting live, following Alaska News Nightly.