Lower Budgets for Several Departments
Matanuska-Susitna Borough Manager John Moosey told the Borough Assembly and Mayor this week that the State’s deficit is shifting State duties onto “us.” Less State revenue, more Mat-Su residents, and increased responsibilities passed down from the State will be factors that squeeze the Borough budget, he said during a 2018 budget overview.
Last summer Alaska Gov. Bill Walker’s veto on State reimbursement monies for school construction debt meant Manager Moosey had to scramble after the budget was passed to find $5.7 million more.
For the upcoming 2018 budget, Moosey said the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District is requesting a $4.5 million increase over last year and is $10 million short overall. If the base student allocation is reduced, the District could be short $19 million, Moosey said. Tax exemptions for seniors and disabled veterans/spouses means there is $11.3 million in less tax revenue in 2018, among other budget revenue reductions. The proposed Borough budget will be presented in about three weeks.
It’s not all fiscal shortfall, however. This week some Department Directors presented their proposed budgets to the Assembly. More than half of the departments reduced their proposed budgets this year despite increased demands from population growth. View Directors' power points at this budget link. Listen to their audio on this news page.
Here is just a short list of some department opportunities and accomplishments:
• Among the year’s rescues, West Lakes Fire Department rescued an ice skater from Big Lake last winter, saving the man’s life.
• Mat-Su voters approved a $22 million recreation bond last October. Trail pass purchases are up 37 percent.
• A wood export company, Astoria Forest Products, is close to making a $2 million investment in woodchips and timber exports at Port MacKenzie.
• In the Capital Projects Department, some $83 million in infrastructure projects will be underway in 2018 and beyond. In Public Works, $6.9 million in road service area projects, five miles of paved roads, and 123 miles of pavement crack sealing were completed last year.
• Pet lovers donated $11,600 to Animal Care through staff fundraising.
• The Planning Department successfully implemented a permit process for marijuana retail and cultivation facilities compliant with State law and is ushering out new floodplain maps that will save some 900 residents significant costs on flood insurance.
• IT is leading and partnering with communities across the state in an open data effort called Smart Communities by sharing in one, online place, information held by different agencies. IT and Finance also implemented online business licenses.
• Finance implemented a marijuana sales tax.
New proposed positions:
Emergency Services is asking for two: a recruitment employee and a fleet maintenance/West Lakes administrator
IT is requesting three: a telecommunications technician, a project manager/business analyst, and a web developer.
Moosey told the Assembly cutting has been ongoing for the last five years even though the Mat-Su has been growing. “as we (population) were expanding, we’ve been cutting. You can see that when you see the personnel numbers, we easily could have justified more folks on the short-term basis, but our direction from the Assembly at the time was let’s provide the best value and least expensive value for our residents, and so I’m proud of that. So we don’t have a whole lot of easy things we can do because we were doing things sloppy before, we were pretty tight from the beginning.”