Wrangell Borough officials are considering spending savings in the upcoming year to repair and replace some of the community’s aging infrastructure.

A draft spending plan for the City and Borough of Wrangell recommends funding for a long list of capital projects, totaling over one and a half million dollars. Those ranging from water system work to harbor replacement and building repairs. The proposed budget covers the fiscal year starting July 1st and runs through June 30th of 2018.

Finance director Lee Burgess explains that the proposed budget is not balanced, because of that capital project spending.

 “So this year it seemed like the needs just were too great to not fund them, so a lot of things are coming up to hopefully be accomplished this year, but that’s going to cost some money. So yeah, this is one of the first years in a while where kind of the total of all expenditures including capital exceeds the anticipated revenues that we have in the budget.”

Wrangell’s charter requires a balanced budget. However, the borough has saved money in the last two years. Burgess says those savings will help pay for the projects.

“We kind of went really conservative with our budgeting just kind of in anticipation of hard times ahead when we saw what was going on with the state and as a result we were able to really save quite a bit of money away. And I think that this budget despite in just the current year only not being balanced, essentially goes back and kind of uses some of the surplus from prior years to help fund some of these capital improvements, some of which we’ve known about and have been planning for a long time and it just happens to be probably this year that several of them are going to happen.”

Proposed projects include a filter replacement for the water treatment system and replacement of the harbor in Shoemaker Bay, about five miles south of town. They also include more than half a million dollars in roofing, siding, heating and mechanical work at the public safety building and swimming pool. Other projects would be the potential purchase of the former sawmill property six miles south of town, paving on Evergreen Avenue and purchase of a new excavator for the landfill.

Wrangell’s draft budget does not cut any positions or reduce services. It also flat-funds the school district, Chamber of Commerce, KSTK radio and the senior center. Spending in the general fund would total just under (6.2) six point two million dollars but that does not include the budget for local utilities or the harbors.

Property tax is (12.75) twelve point seven five mills on the Wrangell road system and four mills for the rest of the borough. Those are not proposed to change. The community’s seven percent sales tax also would not change under the budget proposal. That’s the highest in the state, tied with Kodiak.

Burgess says the spending plan has proposed rate increases for water customers to cover the cost of replacing water lines and the filter in Wrangell’s treatment plant.

“And that’s been discussed kind of all throughout the spring as probably the top priority for improving that treatment plant’s production ability in the near-term. So this budget primarily involves funding that roughing filter replacement.”

Wrangell had a shortage of treated water last year during the peak summer months and increased demand from the public and two seafood processing companies.  

If the budget passes in its second reading, it will mean three years of rate increases for water customers. For most, that hike will be seven percent in the first year, and four percent in both the second and third years. The increase will be more for large commercial customers, namely the seafood processing plants, harbors and docks.

Rate increases could be in the works for garbage and landfill customers in the upcoming year as well.

The end of state capital project funding has put the burden on the municipality to spend its reserves. Between 2009 and 2015, Wrangell averaged $5.7 million dollars in capital project grants from the state. That funding is no longer coming.

The draft budget was approved in first reading and has a second reading and public hearing before the Wrangell Assembly on June 13th (Tuesday).