(Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins/KFSK)

The first look at the Petersburg Borough’s operating budget for fiscal year 2019 happened April 20 in a work session with the assembly and department heads. The spending on the general fund would drop slightly from this year. KFSK’s Angela Denning reports:

In the borough’s budget most of the attention gets put on the general fund because that’s what’s paid for through taxes. The proposed general fund budget for this coming year is balanced with just about $2,000 left over from projected revenue.

The draft budget is for spending about $9.46 million ($9,464,831). That’s a decrease of less than one percent from this year.

A number of general fund departments are proposed for small increases, like the Fire Department, which is budgeted for about $40,000 more than this year.

The borough is proposing to spend about $30,000 of that to replace 21 automated external defibrillators. Those are portable devices used to save people who are suffering from heart failure. The current ones are 20 years old.

Ryan Welde is the borough’s Fire Marshall.

“The companies that produce them will no longer service them, they don’t stand by them, so it’s time to get new ones,” Welde said.

Some departments will see cuts to their budget, like Parks and Recreation, which will see a $26,000 decrease from this year. The department plans to spend less in supplies and capitol projects. Still, there are plans to replace underwater lights inside the lap pool at a cost of $13,500. Also, about $18,000 has been added to the budget for professional services.

Borough Manager, Steve Giesbrecht, says they have been trying to maintain the Rec Center’s bathrooms and locker rooms with regular staff.

“That’s a problem because they also have to watch the front desk,” Giesbrecht said. “So, they bounce back and forth from trying to help people at the front desk and running in and checking locker rooms and we were doing a walk through the other day—and we’ve heard that from customers as well– we’re not doing a good enough job at keeping [the place] clean.”

Funding requests from several community services organizations–the Clausen Museum, Mt. View Food Service, KFSK, and the Chamber of Commerce–were cut by five percent across the board. Most of the organizations are asking for the same amount as this year.

The Clausen Museum wants $42,000. Museum Director, Kathi Riemer, says their utilities alone cost $8,000 a year.

“We’re talking about $42,000, which when you think about, we’re paying for utilities, we’re paying for our salaries, we’re paying for toilet paper and those things really add up,” Riemer said.

The proposed local contribution to the school will not change from what it has been the last several years. The school is budgeted for $1.8 million dollars.

The budget work session also touched on lost state revenue in recent years. The borough is getting less money for things like Community Revenue Sharing and the state jail contract.
Meanwhile, senior sales tax exemptions have risen in recent years. About $1.2 million more was tax exempt in 2017 than in 2015.

In a letter presenting the proposed operating budget, Giesbrecht, wrote that the borough is doing okay so far with federal and state cuts continuing. But he added that, “benefits offered to seniors is making it harder for the borough to fund quality of life areas that are important to younger community members.” He wrote that further growth in senior exemptions, and general fund subsidies for the assisted living fund will be difficult to balance in the future.

The general fund also includes a one percent pay increase for union employees of the borough. While the borough is budgeting for a pay increase, it has not yet reached agreement on a new contract for borough employees.

One of the largest borough projects of the year will be an evaluation and potential repairs to the Blind Slough Hydro Facility. Several waste water pump stations will also be worked on. These projects will not be funded by the general fund but will be paid for from Power and Light and Wastewater reserves.

The first reading of the operating budget will be May 7. The public will get a chance to weigh in on the budget during the second reading, scheduled for May 21.