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'State of The Borough' Shares Accomplishments, Budget


Fairbanks North Star Borough mayor Bryce Ward gave a summary of how his local government adjusted to the pandemic as part of his “State of the Borough” presentation yesterday. Then he stepped through his proposed 173-million dollar operating budget.

The detailed number for the borough budget is $173,496,346. And will require taxpayers to pay $13.799 for every $100,000 in value of their property. That mill rate is just under 1% less (down .092 mills) from last year.

Ward says he was able to check several boxes with the spending plan, including keeping it  $6,594,684 under the voter approved tax revenue cap, and he put 10% of tax revenue, $12,006,660, in the Capital Improvement and Maintenance Reserve. The biggest expense in the budget is the contribution to the school district, and there is no change from last year.

He also balanced the budget -- but only with leftover money from last year. $5,643,294 went unspent.

“Funding Government with lapse is not a sustainable solution.”

Some of the budget reflects impact from the pandemic.

“For several of the line revenue line items, they have been reduced based on the reduction in capacity as well as some of the expense line items. We assumed in the budget all of our operations would be back to full capacity no later than January 1, 2022.”

Ward also said the state’s economic instability could undermine the borough’s planning – as the governor and legislature delay a plan to develop new revenues.

In listing major accomplishments over the last year, Ward noted working with the Interior Alaska Unified Command to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. The borough partnered with the big medical providers Foundation Health Partners and Tanana Chiefs Conference.

As a community, we have grappled with the need to follow sound medical advice in light of the pandemic, but also support the desire of our community to have freedom.”

As the pandemic worsened in Fairbanks and North Pole, Ward was pressured to expand the limited Emergency Powers of a Class 2 borough – to order a mask mandate for example. But he stayed within the limitations.

We’ve taken a very, deliberate position in how we develop those policies and how we really work to maneuver through the pandemic.”

Ward also reviewed a new mission statement for his administration: Serve, Lead, Thrive. His office came up with it before the pandemic.

"It came about a few months after I got into office; we sat down as a team across different departments, and really tried to dive into: what does it mean to serve our community, and who are we, and how do we do that? And that’s where we developed “Serve, Lead, Thrive.” We are here to serve our community, we lead by example, and then ultimately, we want to create a thriving community, one where our people can experience the fullest potential that they have available to them.”

The Assembly’s Finance Committee is meeting on the next three Saturdays to process the budget document.

The mayor’s presentation was recorded and is posted on the borough’s new budget website, its YouTube Channel and Facebook Page.