Wrangell officials project a $225,000 budget deficit for the upcoming 2021 fiscal year. While the city is not suggesting raising taxes or laying people off, finance director Joyce Mason says there will be cuts across the board. Some jobs may be lost through attrition.
“A couple of positions where people have either retired or moved on, we’re planning on not filling those at this time,” Mason says.
This includes full or half time positions at the library, police, public works, and Wrangell Municipal Light and Power. Wrangell’s sole Division of Motor Vehicles employee retired in March. That office would remain closed.
Travel and some capital funding projects have been reduced across departments.
Wrangell’s city anticipates large hits to its revenue streams, partly due to COVID-19. The city expects $700,000 less in sales tax than received the previous year. Mason attributes that to less visitors and seasonal workers this summer.
“There’s very little tourism and very little fish processing, because a plant isn’t running,” Mason says.
Same goes for revenues from Wrangell’s public facilities. The museum is missing out on tourism dollars. And Parks and Recreation won’t make what it’s used to in summer program entry fees.
But federal CARES Act funding could offset the city’s general fund. The city is using that money for COVID-19 specific responses, including an isolation facility and COVID-19 testing for cannery workers. But it can also reimburse staff wages.
“Anybody’s that doing direct duties that pertain to COVID-19, we can get funding from the CARES act for their wages,” Mason says.
Mason says this includes first responder wages, such as the police and fire department, as well as administrative staff whose duties have shifted to COVID-19.
The city estimates $350,000 in wage reimbursement. That funding is reflected in the city’s budget.
According to a budget memo, city staff recommend using General Fund reserves to make up for the $225,000 budget deficit. But the assembly will also consider a number of reductions.
The city may place a wage freeze on its employees. That would mean no step increases, estimated to save $55,000. The city may also reduce its contribution to city employee’s health insurance, saving up to $130,000 in a year.
The assembly will consider cutting funding city hall pays out to local nonprofits like the Chamber of Commerce, Wrangell Senior Center, and KSTK. That totals $47,000.
The Wrangell assembly will hold a final budget meeting and public hearing at 5:30 p.m.Tuesday. KSTK will broadcast that meeting.