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FNSB mayor reports on budget

Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Bryce Ward gives his "State of the Borough" report, including his budget proposal for 2023-24.
Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Bryce Ward gives his "State of the Borough" report, including his budget proposal for 2023-24.

Fairbanks North Star Borough mayor, Bryce Ward gave his annual “State of the Borough” presentation, including the proposed budget for the next fiscal year.

The mayor said his proposed budget is just under 2 percent larger than last year at $188,489,473.

“I would say that this is pretty significant, considering the fact that we're looking at about an 8.1% inflation for the urban area, so we did our best to keep that down. We're under inflation for this last year, which is a pretty significant thing for us to come up with.”

Most of the borough’s revenue comes from property taxes. The mayor showed that because there are more homes and businesses in the borough contributing to the overall tax pool, and they are more valuable, because real estate prices went up, the tax base increased almost 5% over last year. Estimated Net Taxable as of the printing of the budget is up $481,073,906 or4.97% from 2022.

“Our area wide mill rate is projected to drop by 0.599 mills. Um, that gives a new estimated area wide mill levy of 11.691 mills. This is one of the lower ones we've seen in the last several decades. It's not the lowest, but it is within several tenths of a mill of being at that point.”

Ward emphasized the success of the maintenance plan. Following the lead of the previous administration, Ward and the Assembly set up a replacement fund 5 years ago, to stop last-minute emergency repairs. It now requires money to be budgeted every year in the Capital Improvement Program and Maintenance Reserve.

“ The assembly passed an ordinance a few years ago that requires that the mayor's budget includes 10% of estimated revenue go into the C I P M R. I'm happy to say over the last few years we've been able to do that. We'll do that again this year. That's about 12 and a half million dollars that's going into, uh, that particular program.”

If this all sounds like too many numbers, borough staff have posted the mayor’s presentation on the borough’s YouTube channel, and the whole budget document is now available online. Ward says it is especially important for citizens to review the budget when it comes to school funding, which is the biggest chunk of the budget.

“ Increase to the school district 3.4 million. The total amount of contribution to the school district this year is 55 and a half million dollars. Um, this is one of the highest numbers that we've had, I think, ever, but that does reflect that increase in the required local contribution.”

The mayor also calculated some money coming from the state for school bond debt reimbursement.

“I'm not terribly confident on school debt bond reimbursement. In the last budget, the state did contribute basically all of the back payments that we, uh, did not receive for school debt, bond reimbursement. Uh, but they come very inconsistently.”

If the state were to pay the full promised amount for this year, it would be about $6 million.

“ If the state doesn't contribute anything, we're only short half that amount, 3.5 million, which my proposal would be we pull from the debt service fund, which would not impact taxes.”

The borough won’t know the final figure the state will give schools until the legislature passes the state budget.

In addition to the budget release, the mayor highlighted the Housing Tax Exemption to give builders more incentive, several completed construction projects, the Oil to Gas Conversion Program, and School bus driver premium pay, among other accomplishments.

Robyne began her career in public media news at KUAC, coiling cables in the TV studio and loading reel-to-reel tape machines for the radio station.