From Mat-Su reporter Rindi White:
The Mat-Su Borough Assembly took a second swing at shaping the borough fiscal 09 budget Thursday. Assembly members snipped and trimmed and, before the night was done they cut $675,000 and added $13,800 in revenue.
The budget trimming isn't over. Assembly members meet at noon Tuesday in borough Assembly chambers to take another whack.
Borough transfer site operators are out of the budget, at least for now. A recent management audit (see "Audit online" post) claims the borough is wasting nearly $525,000 on staffing transfer sites in Trapper Creek, Willow and elsewhere. Some of the remote sites where people dump their trash legally see fewer than 10 loads per day. But the six full-time employees who staff the sites make, on average, $43,000 plus benefits.
The audit recommends running the transfer sites on the honor system. Borough Manager John Duffy said he has some problems with this plan, namely that hazardous materials might be dumped off in the non-hazardous bins and the borough could get dinged by environmental regulators.
Assemblywoman Mary Kvalheim got unanimous support for her plan to cut $395,000 in wages and benefits from the budget.She gave Duffy three months before the jobs are gone.
Assembly members also cut out $315,000 in equipment purchases for the landfill. The new equipment is part of a plan to quit contracting out heavy equipment work at Central Landfill. A recent comparison of contracted vs. in-house work there shows the borough might cut costs and save landfill space by doing the work in-house with newer, more efficient equipment. The Assembly hasn't signed off on that plan, so the new equipment purchases to make it happen are out for now.
The borough currently pays $250,000 to advertise public meetings and other borough business in both the Anchorage Daily News and the Frontiersman, with some of that money funneled to the Copper River Record and Talkeetna Good Times for public meeting notices.
Assemblywoman Cindy Bettine proposed cutting $90,000 from the budget, replacing big ads in the Anchorage Daily News with a smaller block that directs readers to the borough Web site for more information. The Assembly agreed. The borough page would continue to appear in the Frontiersman.
Bettine bumped up expected borough income by $13,800 by hiking rental fees at the borough gymnasium on Dahlia Avenue in Palmer from $25 an hour to $40.
Renting the gym is a steal, Bettine said. All people have to do is pick up chairs afterward. Renting gym space at the new AT&T sports center on Palmer-Wasilla Highway runs $60, Assemblyman Pete Houston said. Some non-profit sports groups can't afford that, he said, and rely on the borough gym as an affordable space to play their sport.
The only increase of the night came from Assemblywoman Michelle Church, who doubled the law department's budget for outside legal counsel from $125,000 to $250,000. Church said she did it at the request of the borough legal department.