Wrangell’s Borough Assembly held a public workshop and special meeting June 27 to approve the budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

The borough’s health insurance rate’s decreased 18 percent since the draft budget was released in May. That decrease allowed more than $130,000 to be reallocated for improvements to the public safety building and public works projects and equipment.

Some concern was raised over lack of funding to replace two current police vehicles. Assembly member Daniel Blake says he thinks it may be more beneficial to accept the $80,000 price tag sooner rather than later.

“At some point, you pass that level on the graph where it’s costing more to maintain older vehicles than what it’s worth, and it’s more financially responsible to just go ahead and bite the bullet and buy a couple of new vehicles,” said Blake.

Borough Manager Jeff Jabusch says the borough is looking into funding the purchase with grants or purchasing used vehicles from the U.S.Forest Service. He says the fiscal issues plaguing the state make certain capital improvements take priority.

“So you start at $1.4 in requests from general fund things and you got $200,000 to spend. What is in the worst shape?  I understand some of these things just happened with the state. You know we would have had about another $600,000 between revenue sharing and the jail money we lost and some other things. Just right now, we’re in a bad time here.”

Some of the improvements taking priority are maintenance costs for the public safety building, community pool maintenance and paving city streets.

The budget remains balanced, but with the state’s financial woes not going away anytime soon, assembly member Julie Decker says she worries about the long term implications of declining revenues and increasing costs.

The new budget also includes harbor rate increases. The new rate system replaces the current flat rate of $25 per foot with a tiered system that has larger boats paying more.

Boat lengths will be put into three categories. Those up to 30 feet will pay $28 per foot. Boats 31 to 56 feet, which Harbormaster Greg Meissner says the majority of ships fall under, will bump up to $33 per foot. And boats 56 feet and up will pay $38 per foot. The ordinance will also raise fees 2 percent per year to keep up with inflation.

Port Commission member John Martin said at the last regular assembly meeting that the new fees will go towards replacing dock systems, such as the one at Shoemaker Bay Harbor.

”The biggest item I think that needs to be remembered is we have six dock systems. We want to start a savings account that will help us replace them,” said Martin. “Forty-five years from now, we will have half as much as we think we need for one of those systems. That means all six of the ones we have now are 45 years older and we can pay for one half of one of them.”

The new rates will go into effect along with the budget on July 1.