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Borough Assembly Wraps Up Budget Review

Emily Schwing

Fairbanks, AK - The Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly spent 15 hours Saturday discussing the next fiscal year’s recommended budget.  It was the second and final session before a revised budget is presented to the public. 

The Assembly meets for up to three Saturdays each April to discuss everything that involves how money is spent in the Fairbanks North Star Borough: Things like user fees at the Big Dipper Ice Arena, the cost of magazine subscriptions at the Noel Wien library and even the job of a Title Examiner in the Borough’s Department of Assessing.  “Is this a duty that could be contracted out to a title company or some contractor to do the kind of examinations that they do?” asked Assemblyman Lance Roberts.  He questioned Borough Assessor Pat Carlson about work in that department during the first budget session two weeks ago.  Roberts asked many questions about the budget during two Saturday sessions this year. “Yeah, I’m probably asking lots of basic questions," he admots, "and maybe diving  little deeper because I want to understand the process so next year and the year after, I can come in with more knowledge and be able to make more targeted cuts.”

Attendees arrived dressed down.  The Mayor’s Chief of Staff, normally clad in a suit and tie, arrived in a sweatshirt and jeans.  Borough Mayor Luke Hopkins himself decided to forgo his wingtips.  Insetad, he donned sneakers for the occasion. “That’s so I can bounce up quickly and try to address things," joked Mayor Hopkins.  "No actually, we try to be comfortable because it’s an all-day affair, sitting in chairs going over page by page.”

The Mayor’s 146 million dollar budget is nearly 800 pages long.  It’s a slow review process.  Finance Committee Chair Guy Sattley was not pleased with the process two weeks ago, but things were looking up midway through this weekend’s meeting.   With eighteen years of cumulative experience on the Borough Assembly, Sattley called this year's budget review process "one of the worst."  “That was a reaction from the last session two weeks ago. It’s going better," he said on Saturday.  "It’s fairly interesting and we’re trying to get the best bag for the buck for the taxpayer’s money.”  

Chairs were empty in the Assembly Chambers over the weekend, but they’re likely to fill up later this week.  The Assembly will hear public testimony on their revised budget this coming Thursday.