GOVERNOR RELEASES 2020 BUDGET – THE FY 2021 OIL REVENUE FORECAST IS WEAKER THAN EXPECTED
Governor Dunleavy released his 2020 budget on December 11, just after Revenue officials released their numbers reflecting a $186 Million drop compared to 2019. The overall budget, which is $4.53 Billion is referred to as a “flat” budget when compared to the FY 20 Budget approved by the legislature last year. While exercising what the Governor calls “fiscal discipline” by continuing to cut programs and implementing efficiencies, the budget proposal provides for a full statutory permanent Fund dividend, fully funds K-12 education, and increases resources for public safety. It also increases general fund spending to the Department of Corrections by 17.4 percent, increases spending on Pioneer Homes by 18.3 percent, and provides $43 Million for homelessness assistance. When the new legislative session begins the third week of January, House and Senate leadership will focus on the proposal which is expected to generate spirited dialogue in both houses of the legislature well into the new year.
SCALED BACK FERRY SERVICE PLAGUES COASTAL TOWNS; FIVE COMMUNITIES HAVE NO SERVICE
Pelican, Gustavus, Angoon, Tenakee and Cordova now lack any ferry service until Spring, according to the Department of Transportation. Numerous factors are at play, including unforeseen vessel repair costs, cuts in the Transportation budget, and difficulties in accommodating differences in docking facilities in one instance. Angoon service cannot be resumed due to a design difference in its dock, which cannot be accessed by the vessels that now remain in service. Juneau, as the main northern terminus of the system will certainly see economic impacts as travel to and from the Capital City is more limited now that residents from these communities have only air service serving these towns. The impact of this will be felt by residents of northern southeast to a greater degree than in other locations. In addition, the adverse impact on the 2020 tourist season remains to be seen.
SEALASKA HERITAGE ANNOUNCES PROGRESS IN FUNDING ITS NORTHWEST COAST ARTS CAMPUS
Slated to be completed in 2021, the Sealaska Heritage Institute will re-develop the Sealaska parking lot between the Sealaska Plaza and the Soboleff center at the corner of Front and Seward Streets. The $12 million dollar project calls for creation of an arts campus with indoor and outdoor spaces on the site. The Campus will house educational programs that promote creation of contemporary Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian works of art. The goal, according to SHI president and CEO Rosita Worl, will be to recognize Juneau as “the capital of NW Coast art in the world.” The existing parking lot will be moved underground, according to Sealaska officials. $5.6 Million has been committed thusfar by a number of grant sources, said Worl. Construction will start with a ground breaking ceremony in June 2020.
NEW INDUSTRIAL SUBDIVISION UP FOR PLANNING COMMISSION REVIEW IN JANUARY
Planning staff at the CBJ report that the Bicknell Subdivision, which consists of a 44-lot industrial development, will be before the planning commission for approval in January. Originally planned as a commercial development, the land, dubbed “the field of fireweed” was approved several years ago for industrial development, mainly due to its proximity to the airport. The proposed plat, which calls for 44 lots ranging in size from one to four acres, will have appeal for use as warehouse, distribution and airport related users. Once the final plat is approved, the lots will be available in spring 2020.