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Budget Vote Tonight After Last Week's Hearing


Tonight (Thursday) the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly will pass the budget for the next fiscal year, which starts in July. The Assembly met over three Saturdays in April to whittle down expenses, and a public hearing was held last week to get citizen input.

Links to the budget are in this post.

Tonight is the deadline for the Assembly to pass the budget. And what started as 192,659,348 Mayor’s Proposed Budget, is now reduced by the Assembly Finance Committee to $186,377,849.

A lot of the reductions came from freezing negotiated wage increases. They also reduced the amount to the school district by one million dollars. But the Assembly kept in a $9 million allocation for maintenance. The mayor’s budget added $331,630 to the Solid Waste Collection District by hiring new code enforcement officers and eliminated $300,000 of contractual services.

Members and the administration want to keep the base property tax rate at or below the current 13.892 mills.

Last week the Assembly held a public hearing, to which citizens testified telephonically.

Christine Robbins did not have any specific recommendations for reductions but asked the Assembly to keep cutting. “As much hard work as went into getting to where you are now, it’s still not enough.”

Several parents involved with the Midnight Sun Swim Team protested the 20 percent increase in swim fees at borough pools. Maria Wessel said swimming is an essential life skill, and increased costs would mean poor children would not get to participate. “I respectfully ask

Lance Roberts asked the Assembly not to put in the new transfer station monitors passed by the body in a close vote in late April, and praised them for adding maintenance money.

“Please don’t be that Assembly who builds our operational costs and doesn’t work on the maintenance.”

Assembly member Jimi Cash asked everyone who testified if they thought those new positions should be added. Most who responded last week says they did not.

Both school superintendent Karen Gaborik, and the district’s operations officer, Andreu DeGraw testified. DeGraw says he knows the borough’s contribution of $49 million is greatly reduced this year, and the district is carefully reducing costs overall.

“And I want to preface this talking point with this is not a complaint, I just want to give some historical context. In order to find a number in the $49 million range, you have to go back to 2014. And I only say that because we’re cognizant of that burden on taxpayers, and we want to keep that burden at a reasonable level and not be onerous.”

Keith Kurber thanked the Assembly for reducing the budget as much as possible during the pandemic.

“As we head into an unknown future, with reports of small businesses looking to possibly never re-open, in anticipation of what we don’t know at this time.”

Public hearing was closed last week and the Assembly also received a lot of emailed comments. Tonight’s meeting starts at 6:00 o’clock.