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Assembly adds to budget for health care, nonprofits, library

 


The Haines Borough Assembly approved several of member Margaret Friedenauer’s suggested budget amendments Tuesday, adding money to non-profits, economic development and contributions towards employee health insurance.

It approved $5,000 toward a scrap metal recycling program, $15,000 to Community Youth Development for early education and afterschool programs, $3,000 to winter tourism promotion and $14,148 to defray increased costs of employee health insurance contributions.

The assembly has historically designated a pot of money for assembly contributions to nonprofits. Friedenauer said the system is cumbersome and wants the assembly to designate priorities.

“I’m trying to get away from saying, ‘They got this much last year they’re automatically going get this this year’,” Friedenauer said.

Assembly member Tom Morphet said he likes designating a certain amount to the community chest and divvying up the funds to nonprofits after the budget process.

“To me, that made it a little bit cleaner so we didn’t hold up the budget arguing,” Morphet said.

He proposed to add $32,000 into the budget for nonprofits, which the assembly approved 4-1 with Friedenauer opposed.

The assembly also voted 4-1 to cover $12 per month of additional costs per employee associated with health insurance for borough employees who use the 80/20 family plan.

Employees currently pay $292 a month for the plan. The employee share is going up $88 per month to $380, according to a memo from borough chief fiscal officer Jila Stuart.

The borough is bound to pay $1,358 per month for each employee for fiscal year 2018 which would cost the borough an additional $7,860. The assembly’s vote to pitch in $12 per employee increased that cost to $14,148. If the borough covered the entire employee share the cost would be $53,972.

As it stands after the assembly approval, borough employees on the 80/20 family plan will now have to pay an additional $76.

Borough employee Tina Olsen said an additional $88 per month is a lot for borough employees who don’t make between $30-$40 an hour and that the assembly should cover half of the employee insurance increase.

“You just put in the budget $32,000 for nonprofits, you just put in the budget $17,000 for a Sunday swim, you had to put in the budget $55,000 for a settlement with Bill Seward but yet you’re only willing pick up an extra $12 on the $88 increase.”

Morphet voted against pitching in the extra $12 and in a separate interview said it seemed like a “token gesture.” He wants the assembly to reconsider the issue and cover half the employee increase, or around $27,000.

The assembly also unanimously approved removing $22,500 from the fund that pays the borough lobbyist Bill Thomas.

The assembly also approved assembly member Heather Lende’s suggestion to fund an additional $10,000 for the public library.

Friedenauer said she agreed with the intention but questioned why the money should go to the library and not another department like the museum or other borough function. Lende said they have increased the police budget and because they don’t provide benefits to library employees, it seemed like a good idea.

“We have to keep them below 29 hours and when I heard the arguments for police I thought, ‘Why not the library, where it consistently ranks one of the highest things we do and people support it…and it might keep an employee on who might not otherwise be able to stay,’” Lende said.

Library director Patty Brown said she was disappointed there was no discussion when she submitted her budget to borough staff.

Friedenauer asked what $10,000 meant to her budget. Brown said the money could go toward increased staff hours or operating expenses.

“I’m writing a grant to buy a vacuum cleaner today…it would cover a lot,” Brown said.

Friedenauer said the museum may also need the money and she asked why only the library should receive extra funding.

Assembly member Tresham Gregg said the borough uses the library often for meetings and most community members utilize it.

“The museum also is struggling but they don’t have quite the reach in the community that the library does. All things being equal, I would recommend to give some extra money to the museum, but I don’t know where that’s coming from.”

The assembly voted 4-1 to give the library $10,000 with Friedenauer voting against it. She said she would vote for it when it’s included in the entire budget.

 
 

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