Borough Budget Keeps Mill Rate Down
After an evening of amendments, most of which failed, the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly sought to keep the property tax rate below the current 13.892 mills.
Debate covered adding two officers to monitor transfer sites, lowering swimming pool fees, buying a new trailer for the Parks and Recreation Department and paying employees raises. Nearly all amendments failed, and at the end of the evening, the budget was close to $190 million dollars.
Most of the members voted to restore negotiated pay raises for borough employees. The raises were removed from the budget by the Finance Committee, but members like Jimi Cash and Mindy O’Neall were influenced by a pandemic economy and did not want to reduce anyone’s pay.
The negotiated pay raises were passed by a vote of 8-1.
Member Leah Berman-Williams move to reduce school contribution by another half million dollars, but she built in a contingency – if any extra revenue might come in next year that $500,000 might go back to the schools. But member Liz Lyke reminded the body schools were already cut a million dollars.
“Best education… last place to cut. Voting against.”
But she was won over, as was the rest of the assembly, which passed the change 9-0.
Aaron Lojewski tried to add $2 million more to the maintenance fund, but the rest of the assembly thought the $9 million allotted was enough.
Jimi Cash tried to eliminate expenses for a couple of new vehicles, and also reduce the income that comes from swimming pool fees. Both amendments failed. He did get passed a $50,000 reduction to the Fairbanks Economic Development Corporation.
The Assembly spent some time re-hashing the arguments over hiring two code enforcement officers for the borough transfer stations. The positions were just approved in April, but by a narrow 5-4 vote. Member Christopher Quist argued that the positions will pay for themselves with savings from the borough not hauling the extra trash city residents illegally bring to the transfer sites.
“If this works well, the City of Fairbanks will be picking up a lot more of the bill.”
On the same close 5-4 vote, the Assembly kept the officer positions in the budget.
After all the amendments were debated, Aaron Lojewski, Frank Tomaszewski and Jimi Cash voted against the budget, saying it was not reduced enough. The Assembly will formally set the mill rate in June.