Alaska Centennial Center for the Arts

The entrance to Pioneer Park with the Alaska Centennial Center for the Arts in the background on Oct. 26, 2017. The Fairbanks North Star Borough is facing financial hardships and doesn't have the funding to maintain some of its infrastructure and facilities.

Three assembly members want the mayor to present a budget in April with at least 9% of tax proceeds going toward building maintenance.

Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Bryce Ward said 9% is too much, however, and wants to keep the rate at 7% or raise it to 8%.

The difference is about $2 million to $2.5 million based on this year’s tax proceeds. Borough Assembly will take up the matter at its next regular meeting on Dec. 12.

Assemblymen Aaron Lojewski and Christopher Quist and Assemblywoman Marna Sanford are pressing for the higher rate.

“Buildings are going to shut down if we don’t maintain them,” Lojewski said.

Requiring the mayor to dedicate a portion of tax proceeds to building maintenance is fairly new.

The Borough Assembly set the requirement of 7% in January. That obligated the mayor to put at least $8.5 million toward building maintenance for the current fiscal year. Ward proposed $10 million, and the assembly approved it.

Lojewski, who also sponsored the original measure, had sought to have it escalate in forthcoming years, but the escalation clause was removed from the final proposal.

The new measure states that 7% is “insufficient.”

The borough is responsible for maintaining dozens of buildings, including libraries, pools, an animal shelter, a bus depot, fire stations and 35 schools.

The balance in the facilities maintenance reserve account is about $26.5 million. The deferred maintenance backlog is estimated to be in the hundreds of millions.

The borough fell behind on maintenance after relying for years on the state to fund building repairs. But now the state is faced with a revenue shortfall.

Lojewski said the minimum contribution to building maintenance can be raised by 2% without cutting existing services because the natural rate of growth in the borough brings in new property tax revenues.

The municipality adds newly constructed buildings to the tax rolls every year. While it fluctuates, the rate of growth has been 2% in recent years, Lojewski said.

Ward expressed caution about setting a rate that would constrain him.

“I would prefer to have a little bit of wiggle room in case something happens,” he said in an interview Friday. “I am cautious of increasing that amount so much so fast.”

The proposal comes as the mayor is preparing a 10-year capital improvement plan. Ward has said he plans to share his plan with the assembly next month.

The situation at some buildings has become critical.

The borough shut down the Pioneer Park Centennial Center for the Arts earlier this month for emergency repairs.

The Mary Siah Recreation Center is expected to be closed for an extended period early next year to undergo safety improvements.

Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7545. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMborough.