Preliminary budget discussions between the Haines Borough Assembly and department heads Feb. 10 yielded several suggestions for the fiscal year 2015 budget, including expanding the administration building, installing security cameras at several borough facilities and restructuring the tourism director position.
The four-hour meeting was informal, with each department head giving a brief rundown of budget needs and priorities for the coming year.
Chief fiscal officer Jila Stuart said if department heads maintain last year’s levels when their official budgets are submitted, the borough will run a $500,000 deficit in fiscal year 2015. That means the borough would need to dip into its general fund balance – or “savings account” – to pay its bills, she said.
According to Stuart’s projections, the borough would need to spend $300,000 from its areawide fund balance and $200,000 from its townsite fund balance.
To make up for declining revenue, interim manager Julie Cozzi requested department heads submit two budgets this year: one maintaining last year’s levels and one that makes a 10 percent cut to last year’s levels.
Department budgets are due in the beginning of March.
During Monday’s meeting, interim police chief Ford called maintaining last year’s levels an “aggressive goal,” since expenses for materials like ammunition are continuing to increase. “If we maintain last year’s levels, that is a reduction,” he said.
Ford floated some ideas for increasing revenue, including adding more Alaska laws to borough code so fines collected from violators would go to the borough instead of the state.
Mayor Stephanie Scott said the borough’s Public Safety Commission and several community members have suggested that the intensive police chief position be split into two jobs: one administrative, and the other investigative.
Ford said the idea was “certainly something to think about,” but didn’t elaborate on whether he thought the split would be a good idea.
Pool manager RaeAnn Galasso expressed a sentiment similar to Ford’s, stating there is really no fat left to trim from the pool’s expenses. “We’re down to the bare minimum on the budget,” she said.
Public facilities director Carlos Jimenez also outlined his priorities for the upcoming fiscal year, including replacement of the administration building roof, windows and boiler. Assembly member Jerry Lapp said he would like to see an addition to the administration building to accommodate more offices.
In addition to Jimenez’s other priorities for the borough’s 40 public facilities – replacing siding on the museum and library, replacing windows on the Chilkat Center and upgrading the jail, to name a few – he also expressed a desire to install security cameras at sites like the library and harbor.
Vandalism and illegal garbage dumping would be the primary reasons for installing the cameras, he said. “I’m not a big advocate of cameras, but it’s frustrating” to repeatedly deal with the same issues, Jimenez said.
Regarding the “muniplex” combination facility which has been roughly designed by architectural firm McCool Carlson Green, Jimenez said, “That’s not going to happen any time soon, I’m guessing.”
When assembly member Joanne Waterman asked where plans for the facility stood and whether the Facilities Master Plan Steering Committee was still working on the issue, Scott said the project was essentially stagnant. “There it sits for want of money,” she said.