FAIRBANKS — Borough Mayor Bryce Ward introduced a $173 million spending proposal for the 2019-20 fiscal year Thursday that would raise property taxes by 1.6 mills.
The tax hike would help cover a $9 million shortfall in state support for school bond debt. Ward also wants to put $10 million into a facility maintenance account, doubling its balance.
He characterized his budget plan as aimed at keeping current services going while seeking more government efficiency.
The assembly’s response to the budget plan was muted.
“What you have given us is a lot to think about,” Christopher Quist, chairman of the assembly finance committee, said after a budget presentation by Debbie Brady, chief financial officer. She went over some highlights of the 787-page plan.
If approved, the mill rate will be higher than its been since 1999. The tipping fee at the landfill is proposed to be raised from $111 per ton to $115 per ton.
The taxpayer subsidy toward the department that handles public transportation would go up by $359,890.
On the bright side, budgeted interest earnings are predicted to grow from $2.3 million this year to $4.3 million next year “due to projected prevailing market conditions,” according to an explanation in the budget plan.
The mayor is seeking to hire a grants writer, but the overall number of public employees, 439, would remain stable.
A reorganization of the computer services department, which would add two positions, is in the proposal. Jobs are being trimmed from the Financial Services and Transportation departments. The jobs are being eliminated through attrition.
The borough’s contribution to education, its largest annual allocation, is proposed to remain stable at $50 million.
The proposal is $5.2 million above the current budget.
A breakdown of government spending by category shows that most of the money goes toward wages and benefits, which are projected to cost $46.6 million for FY20, up from $44.4 million.
The budgets adds spending in areas such as office supplies, machinery and professional services. Spending in the categories of equipment, furniture, travel and training are also set to rise in Ward’s budget proposal.
Assembly members will meet often this month, discussing the numbers and getting questions answered by the mayor and department directors.
The budget funds an array of government services including parks, pools, libraries, buses and the dump.
Ward shared his take on the local economy in a letter to the assembly dated Thursday.
Federal spending in the Fairbanks area is expected to grow, he said.
“Despite the state enduring its fourth year of recession and challenges state leaders are facing preparing in a statewide budget, the FNSB is projected to lead the state in job growth in 2019, mostly due to construction projects at Eielson (Air Force Base) related to the F-35 build up,” he wrote.
Challenges to the economy are the cost of energy and diversifying, Ward told the other elected leaders.
Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7587. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMborough.