Assembly adds $263,000 to budget
May 27, 2021
The Haines Borough Assembly Tuesday added roughly $263,000 from a mixture of borough funds and CARES Act dollars to the $13 million operating and capital budget for the next fiscal year (FY22). Amendments included funding for the Haines Sheldon Museum, pool, public works department, a new borough planner, the Haines Economic Development Corporation (HEDC), the Haines Chamber of Commerce and a Community Waste Solutions grant program.
“(My intention when I ran was) to try to have a balanced budget. Not that it’s impossible, but I see now after two years, and especially after last year, us spending a little money for the locals is a really good thing, getting some normalcy back in life,” assembly member Gabe Thomas said at Tuesday’s meeting. Including Tuesday’s amendments, the budget now includes roughly $500,000 in spending from savings accounts.
The assembly approved a $25,000 amendment to open the pool in August after an outpouring of public support for the facility and an offer from the Haines Borough School District to cover half the cost. The facility had been scheduled to open in September.
More than 60 people, ranging in age from 6 to 92, submitted written comments explaining the importance of the pool in their lives. Another eight spoke in support of the pool at Tuesday’s meeting.
“My family moved here about fourteen years ago. Looking around at small communities to move out of Anchorage to, the pool was one of those must haves on the list,” said Jim Green, who’s involved with the Haines Dolphins swim team.
Museum funding has been another controversial funding item in this year’s budget discussions. Although the borough has traditionally covered payroll for the quasi-governmental organization, the budget draft released by interim manager Alekka Fullerton on April 1 didn’t include funding for the museum. Fullerton said the elimination of payroll assumed the museum nonprofit would achieve its goal of separating from the borough.
On Tuesday, the assembly appropriated roughly $42,000 for museum payroll, recognizing that the facility is unlikely to separate from the borough before the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.
“I think we need more time, and I don’t think we can do (the museum restructuring) justice in the short period of time that we have left,” assembly member Paul Rogers said at the meeting.
The assembly had previously approved the transfer of leftover payroll funds in the current final year’s budget, roughly $70,000, to the museum nonprofit. Combined with Tuesday’s amendment, borough funding for the institution now comes to $112,000, not counting borough funding for the museum payroll burden and building maintenance costs.
“We’re grateful that we’re funded for the payroll that we requested for the coming fiscal year,” interim accountant Burl Sheldon said in an interview Wednesday. The amount is exactly what the board requested to operate with a skeleton crew of part-time borough employees.
The funding doesn’t take into account an earlier request from the board for a line item transfer of roughly $50,000, the equivalent of a payroll grant the nonprofit turned over to the borough last year, to help pad the organization’s operating budget in the upcoming fiscal year. The board requested the transfer anticipating another low-revenue year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“FY22 will be a difficult year and my hope was that we would have a cash reserve to ensure that we enter this reorganization phase with strength, and yet, the outcome of our meeting yesterday did not include any appropriation beyond the payroll request,” Sheldon said. “I am pretty certain that, as things stand, at the end of FY22, the Sheldon Museum nonprofit will have drawn down some of its reserves. We’re currently looking at spending more money than we’re taking in.”
Other amendments approved Tuesday included: $75,000 for the public works department to ease the burden on staff by contracting out more work orders; $40,000 in CARES Act funds for another round of the Community Waste Solutions trash grant program; the transfer of $167,000 from the areawide general fund to the townsite service area to reimburse for police response outside the townsite; $51,000 in CARES Act funds transferred to the ambulance fund; $10,000 for local emergency planning; $5,000 in CARES Act funds each for HEDC and the Haines Chamber of Commerce to support community assistance; and $10,000 to turn the planning and zoning tech position previously held by Libby Jacobson into a planner position, which the borough has offered to Haines Real Estate owner Dave Long.
The budget is scheduled for a final public hearing on June 8. The deadline for passage is June 15.