The Wrangell Borough Assembly Tuesday adopted the borough’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year 2016.
Although major budget cuts are being made at the state level, Wrangell residents will not see any significant changes in municipal services. Property taxes will also remain the same next year.
But next year’s budget will have a small deficit. General fund expenses will slightly exceed revenues in fiscal year 16.
Borough Manager Jeff Jabusch does not think the deficit will cause serious financial problems because the borough will likely spend less than expected this year. The borough has also built up general fund reserves, which allows for some financial flexibility.
Wrangell’s jail will take the biggest hit from state budget cuts.
This year, the state funded 98 percent of the jail’s budget. Next year, the state will only cover a little bit more than half of the jail’s budget.
“We did receive additional funding for our jail,” said Borough Manager Jeff Jabusch. “About another $42,000, which helps in our budget. So that was certainly good news.”
Wrangell will fund the rest of the jail’s budget to keep those services in place.
Wrangell’s limited capital budget will replace and repair some of the borough’s equipment and structures that are in really bad shape. The more expensive projects include replacing an ozone generator in the water department and fixing concrete at the barge ramp.
Most capital requests will be put on hold. One of those is a new fire truck priced at $300,000.
Assembly Member Stephen Prysunka asked if money could be set aside to save up for a new fire truck. He said old equipment could put the fire department’s good safety rating at risk.
“If our pumpers get turned back by the ISO rating company, that will affect every taxpayer and the city dramatically if our insurance rates all go up because we don’t have new enough firefighting equipment,” Prysunka said.
Jabusch said it is difficult to put money away for a fire truck when the borough has a budget deficit.
“When you have these other immediate things right now, sometimes it’s hard to justify huge expenditures like that that won’t be used on a daily basis,” Jabusch said.
The borough will look into other funding options for purchasing a fire truck.
Meanwhile, the state legislature does not have a final budget. If the state makes any drastic changes in its budget, the Wrangell assembly can adjust its budget accordingly through amendments.