The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By LEE REVIS
Editor, Valdez Star 

Big bucks at stake as city begins rounds of 2018 budget work sessions

Proposed $48.3 million in general fund revenues will come before council

 

October 11, 2017



Big bucks - and how to spend it - are at the forefront this month as the City Council begins the grueling round of budget works sessions.

At stake are the budgets for each city department, as well as funding for future big ticket budget items such as education, as well as the budgets for numerous community service organizations (CSO) which receive funding from the city each year.

This year's budget policy statement, which identifies top council goals - includes items such as completing construction on the new boat harbor, moving forward with public safety infrastructure, flood mitigation and resolving the Aleutian Village housing issues.

The first work session begins Wednesday, Oct 11.

While council is not allowed to actually vote on budget issues during the work sessions, members work to come to a consensus on the proposed budget. The budget cannot actually become binding until it is presented in it's final version and undergoes two public hearings and two votes of the council.

There are five work sessions scheduled for October, including Wednesday's meeting, which is slated to begin at 6 p.m. at city council chambers.

As a municipality, Valdez is not struggling financially to pay its bills -despite the fact that the State of Alaska has remained in a serious fiscal crunch for the past three years due to low oil prices.

Valdez receives the bulk of its revenue from property taxes - set at 20 mills - which keeps it coffers full with nearly $1 billion of oil related properties within the city limits.

With state grants and funding dwindling, the city's yearly allotment of cash to CSOs will be vital according to backers.

In 2017, the city budget funded various CSOs to the tune of $2.4 million in funding - and that number is not expected to drop.

At this Thursday's meeting, council is expected to review funding requests from CSOs and also organizations that receive special funding to hold popular events in Valdez, such as the Women's Silver Salmon Derby (held by Valdez Fish Derbies) and the Last Frontier Theatre Conference (hosted by Prince William Sound College) - which request services such as waiving rental fees and not cash. Other events ask for varying amounts of money - from modest amounts such as a request for $1,000 by the Valdez Convention and Visitors Bureau for its Oktoberfest celebration to much larger venues such multiple requests for larger amounts by Levitation 49 for multiple events such as the Fat Bike Race ($26,000 request) that is held over a period of three days and the Ice Climbing Festival ($9, 672).

CSOs - many of which are feeling the squeeze from state budget cuts - were advised last August by council member Chris Moulton that they should not expect or ask for additional city funding for 2018.

Source: City of Valdez

The proposed budget for the 2018 City of Valdez budget is comparable to 2017 spending.

Details on the budget works sessions for Friday and this coming Monday were not available as of Tuesday morning.

Other budgets up for review Thursday include the education and the city owned hospital, which is run by Providence Alaska by a contract with the city.

City schools are asking for $10,328,493 in funding.

This includes $8.5 million for operations and other services the district provides which the city budget has typically paid for outside of the funding it is obliged to provide.

This year, the district is requesting $845,505 for community education costs, $400,000 for food service, $355,000 for pupil activities, $125,000 for technology and $94,000 for transportation.

 

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