News-Miner opinion: Loads of attention has been given to the financial troubles of the state of Alaska, but the city of Fairbanks is facing its own fiscal problems.
And little seems to have been achieved in dealing with it.
The City Council has twice rejected proposals to bring in more revenue, one by lifting one of the city’s tax caps and the other by raising the tax on lodging. Do any of the candidates support those rejected ideas? If so, what’s the alternative?
Something needs to happen, and the candidates for mayor and City Council need to clearly spell out what they want to do about the problem.
Here’s the situation, as explained in some of these excerpts from Mayor Jim Matherly’s October 2018 letter accompanying his budget for the current fiscal year, which began Jan. 1:
• “The city does not have enough funds to replace capital assets. With decreasing state funding for capital projects, the city must increase its contribution to our capital account.”
• “The city is experiencing an increase in demand for services while revenues are flattening.”
• “Due to declining revenues and increasing costs, budgeting is reactive instead of proactive.”
• “New sustainable revenue sources must be identified and implemented, or a reduction in services must occur.”
• “Many vacancies in public safety and high employee turnover. Health care costs and better job opportunities are available in other communities. Intangible benefits must be identified to retain employees.”
• “Fire Department is responding to more medical calls. Increased staffing must be obtained through volunteers or the stacking of calls must be acceptable to the community.”
• “Capital projects funding is at risk when general fund revenues are diminished.”
The conundrum facing city leaders is this: Not enough revenue, increasing expenses, a city budget that has been continually pared, and an electorate that historically opposes tax increases but still wants an acceptable level of city services.
It’s a tough situation. The solution may also be tough. That’s why the four candidates for mayor and all the candidates for City Council need to explain their plan. Yes, the city needs a plan. But what exactly is the plan?
Many opportunities exist for candidates to deliver their ideas to voters.
The League of Women Voters is having a candidate forum 6:30-9 p.m. Friday at the borough administrative center. The Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring a forum for the mayor candidates from noon to 1 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27.
And Daily News-Miner pre-election coverage of the City Council and mayoral candidates begins Monday and concludes Sunday, Sept. 29. The coverage includes stories about the candidates and their positions on key issues as well as a Q&A with each candidate.
The city of Fairbanks faces a rough financial future. That’s why a detailed plan is needed. Any candidate who doesn’t have one shouldn’t be expecting to get too many votes.