News from Patrick Flynn

2011 budget bits, fifth edition

So tonight’s (most likely) the night; when the Assembly puts the finishing touches on Anchorage’s 2011 budget.  With all the work that’s gone into it I don’t expect it to take too long, but I’m usually wrong about those predictions because I tend forget most folks like to verbalize their final thoughts on these sorts of things more than I.  (I just write instead.)  That said, I expect there to be some discussion on three budget amendments prior to final passage:

  1. Restoration of proposed cuts to People Mover service,
  2. Preservation of some sort of library in South Anchorage (either the existing Samson-Dimond branch or some modification thereto), and
  3. Funding for an Eastside district plan.

Once those are out of the way we’ll move on to a vote on the overall budget, then onto the more prosaic pieces like the fees & fines ordinance and the Utility & Enterprise budgets.  The latter is where things may get sticky.

After conducting our review of those budgets the Budget & Finance committee, in the person of yours truly, recommended a reduction of $30,000 to the Port’s advertising budget and deleting AWWU’s capital projects related to their ERP program.  Let’s talk about the former first, and we’ll start with an e-mail reaction from the Port Director:

Dear Assembly Members,

I’ve come to find out that during Friday’s budget session one member raised some questions in regards to a marketing expense in the Port’s 2011 proposed operations budget and that, as a result, an amendment has been prepared to decrease the Port’s 2011 operating budget by that same amount. At issue is an estimated $30,000 included in the marketing budget for advertising on a statewide level focusing on increasing awareness of the Port’s services in communities outside of Anchorage.

Every year the Port takes on the challenge of being solely responsible for securing all funds for the expansion project at both the federal and state levels.  This budget item provides a way to reach Alaskan communities that depend on the port for essential services but probably do not realize it, and that are too far away to participate in our summer tours.  I feel that this is an important effort that will ultimately increase acceptance and awareness of the Port as a critical piece of statewide infrastructure-not only among the widespread rural communities we serve, but among their legislators as well—which, in turn, will benefit both the Port and the Municipality of Anchorage.

I would also like to add that this proposed expenditure represents less than 1% of the Port’s annual operations budget.  Cutting it would not have any measurable effect on the Port’s overall budget, nor would it have any effect on the Municipality’s budget since the Port does not use any Anchorage property tax dollars.  I hope you will take this into consideration before your final vote on Tuesday night.  Thank you for your consideration.

Bill Sheffield

What Governor Sheffield apparently didn’t know when he authored his missive is that some of my colleagues wanted a bigger cut to the Port budget.  As yet I haven’t heard from anyone who thinks the reduction went too far, but we’ll see.

That brings us to the AWWU budget, where regular readers know I’ve expressed discomfort with their pursuit of an ERP system separate from that of the rest of the municipality.  Given that, I sought information on project funding related to that endeavor so we could at least delay for one year to further analyze the situation.  I reviewed the materials provided by AWWU, had a dickens of a time figuring out what it meant and asked the administration for help.  Based on our mutual review we recommended deleting eight projects totaling about $1.3 million from AWWU’s capital budget.

Then things got really strange.  First, AWWU officials reportedly told the administration that deleting the capital projects wouldn’t affect their moving forward with the ERP as most of the funding for the project was in their operating budget.  (I’m told administration officials were nonplussed and suggested that AWWU pressing ahead in defiance of Assembly intent might not be a wise step.)  Then AWWU told me only two of the eight projects were actually related to the ERP, and when I inquired about the operating piece, I was told that amount was only $200,000 (and would be needed to complement the MOA’s ERP process).  In short, it’s not clear what the actual size of AWWU’s budget should be.

Given all that, I’ve suggested we hold off on that particular budget for a week to allow everyone to take a deep breath and ensure we get this done correctly.  That idea appears to be gaining traction and I expect that’s what we’ll ultimately do, but you’ll have to tune in or come by to see if my powers of prognostication are functioning.



This contribution was made on Tuesday, 07. December 2010 at 11:59 and was published under the category Fiscal matters. You can follow comments on this entry through the RSS-Feed.

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