Assembly withdraws funding for OpenGov


June 14, 2018

The assembly withdrew funding for an online public engagement software program before approving next year’s $13.6 million budget, reversing its former support of the tool designed to promote civic engagement.

Assembly member Heather Lende made an amendment to withdraw funding for The assembly had previously voted on May 9 to fund the platform in a 3-3 vote with Mayor Jan Hill breaking the tie.

Lende had previously voted in favor of the measure “because of transparency,” she said, but raised the concern that due to lack of unanimous support, funding would become a political bargaining tool and funding for it would be discontinued. “What happens in the fall is that people will run and say they don’t like it and we will have spent $40,000 to start it up, and the next assembly will say, ‘No, we’re not going to spend the $20,000 to continue it,’” Lende said.

Assembly members rehashed their discussion on Assembly member Tresham Gregg said he didn’t see the need for the program and assembly member Stephanie Scott proposed funding only the online budget portion of the platform.

Assembly member Sean Maidy became frustrated that the issue was reconsidered and said changing the vote was “ruining our own credibility.”

Maidy said he had heard support for the software from the community. “The people who you are not hearing clamoring for this don’t clamor to you because you don’t listen to’s not on them to beg to be heard. It’s on us to listen to them,” Maidy said. “And what we’re telling them right now is, ‘Your voice, the way you talk, doesn’t matter to me.’”

The amendment to de-fund passed 4-2, with Maidy and Josephson voting against.

In the latest round of amendments, the assembly passed three proposed by borough manager Debra Schnabel. Her amendments increase the cost of the fire budget by $10,300 to dispose of leftover foam; increase the stipend for the fire chief by $250 per month to total $750 per month; and allocate $18,000 of CVP funds to purchase an accessible van for visitors, $3,000 for trash for public area trash-cans, and $18,000 for Tlingit park upgrades.

Assembly member Tom Morphet motioned to add $37,000 to the “community chest,” which traditionally funds nonprofits using a request for proposals system. The amendment passed 4-2.

Morphet’s motion to fund half of the requested $66,000 for another position in the planning department failed.

Next year’s budget is projected to use $352,007 of the area-wide general fund balance. Finance director Jila Stuart said, “A significant portion of this, $253,000, is for capital improvements to the pool and is mostly offset by federal secure rural schools funding, which was significantly higher than expected.”

The borough also received more than expected raw fish tax revenue, which reduced deficit spending.


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