Petersburg’s borough assembly plans to start their review of a borough budget for next fiscal year in mid-April. However, that initial spending plan may be just a place holder until the state government decides on funding cuts to municipalities.
The borough charter gives the assembly until June 15th to finalize a budget for the fiscal year that starts up in July. Typically that means review of the spending plan starts in April or May. But borough officials don’t expect the governor and state legislature to reach agreement on state spending levels by that time.
“I fully expect that we will know very little from the state on what their budget is going to look like,” explained borough manager Steve Giesbrecht Monday. “So it’s going to be kind of a status quo type budget, unless we hear something in the meantime about what the state’s going to do. I hate to say this because it sounds scary but I think we’ll probably likely have to come back in the fall after the assembly, or excuse me after the state has finally decided on a budget and everybody gets back from fishing and being out of town and may very likely have to come back and redo the budget process to take into account changes the state has done.”
Governor Mike Dunleavy has proposed over one and a half billion dollars in state spending cuts, which would have impacts for the municipal government, schools, hospital, businesses and non-profits locally. The state legislature is drafting the operating budget for the upcoming year, although the governor can veto spending from that final plan.
Petersburg’s assembly scheduled a meeting April 17 at 6 p.m. in borough assembly chambers to get their first look at proposed budgets for the borough’s general fund and enterprise funds. They’ll vote on that budget with three readings of an ordinance in May and early June.
Assembly member Jeff Meucci, attending by phone, had a question about the process.
“When is the opportunity to look at cuts to city government and/or additions to city government?” Meucci wondered.
Giesbrecht responded that the meeting in April would be the best opportunity to vote on changes and give staff direction for a borough spending plan. Additional changes can be done throughout the three readings of the budget ordinance.
Meucci has tried for months to have a discussion among the assembly about budget changes he’d like to see but other assembly members have removed those topics from meeting agendas.
“For me sometimes it gets lost in the weeds, we come up with a balanced budget, you know I’m all for streamlining the borough government and if there’s things that we could possibly do to make that happen, or you know I’ve been trying to get an EMS coordinator fire fighter to help out at the fire hall, I just want to know when to do that,” Meucci said. “I don’t want to wait until the meeting on the 17th to do that.”
Meucci submitted a list of proposed cuts and additions he’d support to the borough manager last year and said he would submit that again. He supported suggestions from the manager including reducing hours at the baler, library and gym as well as ending snow removal outside city limits. He also has expressed interest in funding cuts for the school district, and community service organizations. Other assembly members haven’t yet committed to specific changes they’d like to see in borough spending, opting to wait and see on state funding levels instead.
The budget meeting on April 17 will be a special meeting instead of a work session so assembly members can vote on changes to the draft spending plan.