Mat-Su Begins Budget Process

Matanuska Susitana Borough officials got an early look at the Borough’s FY 2016 spending plan Thursday.  Borough manager John Moosey opened the discussion, saying the budget would be “very conservative”, compared with previous years. The Borough’s mil rate has remained relatively flat since 2010, but indications are that changes are coming, Moosey said.

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“We can’t continue this for this budget. If you look back at 2009 and what we were charging to taxpayers and where we are now, what other organization, business, can say we are doing more things, we’re growing and we’re still charging you less, charging taxpayers less, seven years later. My message today is, ‘we need to make some changes, especially revenue changes because some of the revenue that we are counting on and some of the things we have created are really making at a pinch point.'”

No individual department heads presented figures to the Assembly at Thursday’s worksession. The Assembly prioritizes spending and will deliberate the plan after a series of public hearings starting on May 4.

Moosey said, along with the budget debate, there needs to be further discussion regarding deficits in the funds that pay for select Borough operations.. namely, Port MacKenzie, Borough solid waste services, and the unused ferry Sustina.

Those so-called enterprise funds are supposedly supported by fees charged for services, but there wide gaps between costs and charges, Moosey said. Borough Finance director Tammy Clayton reviewed the latest figures on the enterprise funds:

“With regards to the Port, the budgeted deficit for June 30, 2015 is estimated at 6.8 million ($), the budgeted deficit for June 30, 2016 is estimated at 6.35 million ($).  The ferry, or what is approved to be transferred in for fiscal year 2016 is 460 thousand ($). “

Deficits in enterprise funds are covered by transfers from the Borough’s areawide fund.

The Borough’s Public Works director, Terry Dolan, told the panel that the solid waste enterprise fund is running a 1.6 million dollar deficit. He said increases in rates could close the gap.

State fiscal woes also are affecting the Borough’s budget for the next fiscal year. Moosey said a drop in revenue sharing, increases in school infrastructure needs and a drop in Borough revenue due to senior and disabled veteran tax exemptions are all contributing to the lean fiscal outlook.