By Jenna Kunze

FY20 Budget Amendments

On Tuesday, the Haines Borough Assembly unanimously voted to amend its 2020 operating budget reflective of finalized state funding, dipping into its reserve fund by $289,163.

When the Haines Borough operating budget was adopted in June, state funding to the borough was unknown. Major line items in flux for the borough were the school bond debt reimbursement program and the raw fish tax, both threatened to be eliminated by Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

Dunleavy settled on a 50 percent reduction to the school bond debt reimbursement, state funding that pays for school and library construction bonds, a $450,337 cost to the borough. To pay for it, the assembly approved shifting the money from the areawide general fund to the school bond fund.

Payment in Lieu of Taxes funding from the federal government wasn’t included in the original budget, but came in higher than expected, said Finance Director Jila Stuart. Increased banking and insurance costs also added to decreased reserve funding.

The borough recouped $215,000 from raw fish tax that was not vetoed by the governor. It also saved money on payroll expenses from union workers that agreed to lesser pay contingent on lesser school debt reimbursement money.

Assembly approves emergency water pipe repair contract

The Haines Borough Assembly on Tuesday unanimously authorized a $15,000 emergency contract to repair improperly installed waterlines in Lily Lake, which has contributed to the town’s water shortage.

Beginning early last month, exceptionally low water levels at Lily Lake, that supplies 90 percent of the town’s water, precipitated an ongoing mandatory water restriction in town.

Borough administration found that the line was improperly installed during 2010 construction, when contractors laid pipe over bedrock instead of blasting through it. Doing so created a short hump in the gravity-fed line that hasn’t allowed enough pressure to force water through the pipe.

Currently, the water department has installed a temporary, above-ground pump to move Lily Lake’s water to the water plant.

Public facilities director Ed Coffland recommended waving competitive bidding procedures for the contract and awarding it locally (as allowable by code in cases of emergency) as the current stand-in pump will freeze in winter.

Southeast Roadbuilders, the only local contractor with a blasting permit, will be contracted for the job later this week. 

Contractors will begin work immediately, removing 500 feet of improperly installed pipeline, blasting bedrock if necessary, and reinstalling the pipe, Coffland said. The estimated $150,000 would come from the department’s Water Enterprise fund.

Information Campaign denied 

On Tuesday, the Haines Borough Assembly voted 2-3 against allocating $1,000 for an information campaign on the ballot proposition leading up to Oct. 1 elections.

Assembly members Sean Maidy and Heather Lende thought it was important to educate the public on how to file a write-in campaign to be considered for the third assembly seat.

“Especially now with the third-place vote getter going to be appointed by the assembly, I think it’s extremely important for us to advertise what’s going on with this campaign, with the ballot, everyone whose running,” Maidy said.

The vote failed with assembly members Brenda Josephson and Tom Morphet opposed to spending tax dollars to inform voters on something they may disagree with.

“I think if we want to educate, then we can go and speak to our constituents and inform them and educate them. I think anyone that has a passing interest in borough politics is going to understand the third highest vote getter gets the seat,” Morphet said.

If voters approve a 2 percent sales tax imposed separately on alcohol and marijuana, the Haines Borough stands to generate an estimated $189,700, based on state department of revenue data.

The tax would be passed onto consumers, in addition to the 5.5 percent borough-wide sales tax, and include all retail alcohol sold at bars and liquor stores, and all marijuana products sold at Haines’ singular retail shop.

“The purpose of the tax levy is to generate revenue,” borough manager Debra Schnabel wrote in a memo to the assembly. “A vote should encourage the best outcome for the borough.”

The Haines Economic Development Cooperation analyzed how a 2 percent tax on alcohol will affect consumers. An average $5 beer would increase by about 10 cents, a box of wine by 46 cents, a pre-rolled marijuana joint by 16 cents, and CBD ointment by 48 cents.

For more information on the ballot initiatives, HEDC published an analysis in the Sept. 10 assembly packet that can be found on the borough website.