Finance committee recommends adding police, libary positions back in Dillingham budget

Jun 13, 2017

On Monday night the city's finance and budget committee met to discuss the proposed f/y 2018 budget. Their recommendations will be presented to the full council Thursday night ahead of a vote.

The Finance and Budget committee meets Monday in the City Council Chambers.
Credit Allison Mollenkamp

Dillingham's finance and budget committee met Monday night to fine tune the budget that has been prepared over many months. The city council is scheduled to vote on the $12.2 million budget Thursday. The committee recommended using the current projected surplus of $100,000 to put a police officer and library position back in for next year. KDLG’s Allison Mollenkamp reports.

Monday's meeting started with a staff report on the 2017 fiscal year finances. So far this year, sales tax revenue is lower than projected, and finance director Navin Bissram expects this may not change.

“After eight months of activity, we are currently under budget. Activity is expected to improve in April, May, and June. At the end, unless something drastic happens, I expect us to come in below budget,” he told the committee members.                            

Later in the meeting interim city manager Don Moore began discussion of the proposed 2018 budget. The committee worked hard to bring the budget from about a quarter million dollars in the red to just over a hundred thousand in the black, but Moore called the proposed budget a “snapshot in time.”

“There’s been some changes recently that lead me to be concerned about, as I’ve expressed before, that the budget is fine. It balances. But I’m getting concerned on whether or not we can continue to provide the services," Moore said.

He detailed three areas of the budget that he thinks should have funds reinstated. The first was the Public Works department, where director Ken Morton recently announced his resignation. The department is currently working on several projects including sewage lift stations, a fire station door replacement, renovations at the senior center, and work on a cell at the landfill. Moore says these projects can’t be left unattended.

“All of these require management oversight that we have been providing through the Public Works director. We’re working on a program to fill in the gaps for that, either using the designer, for instance, to manage the project, or we have some local help –Dagan Nelson can do the smaller ones.”

Moore was not prepared to ask for a specific amount of money for Public Works. The committee plans to revisit this issue at a mid-year review. Moore could, however, put a price tag on his second item, a twenty-hour per week library assistant position. That would come in at $25,000 after donations of $1,500 each from Peter Pan and Icicle Seafoods. Sonja Marks, the librarian, says the position would support the mission of the library.

“With only three people working, we can’t serve that many people. And I know it’s not a life safety health issue for our community, but it is for the mental state I guess.”

This year the library has one 20 hour position and two 14 hour aide positions. This has forced the library to decrease its hours to 30 per week, which is nearing the 25 hour threshold necessary for the library to keep its grant funds. The committee will recommend that the council reinstate the second 20 hour position in the proposed budget.

Moore’s third suggestion was to add back the eighth police officer position. He says the effect of an understaffed police department may be hard to see.

“The measure of your success of a police department is in things that don’t happen. If the drunk driver is in our jail, that lessens the likelihood that they’re gonna cause an accident or something.”

At the last city council meeting, DPD Chief Dan Pasquariello spoke at length of the importance to his department of having the eighth officer in place. The council was sympathetic to the fact that his officers are stretched thin to keep 24/7 coverage in town, and still find time to file reports and conduct investigations. 

If the eighth position is added, Pasquariello said he could hire someone who has already been through the police academy, or look locally.

“It seems like we have better luck when we take somebody who’s already from Dillingham, that lives in Dillingham, that knows Dillingham, that works. When we train them we seem to get more time out of them than lateral hires or people who have already put themself through the academy.”

The committee will recommend the council reinstate the police officer position in the proposed budget. This will essentially do away with the $100,000 surplus that had been created. Finance and budget members also reviewed options for instating a tobacco tax, including a mill tax or tax per pack, which should come up for further discussion in August. 

The city council will vote on the proposed fiscal year 2018 budget at its meeting Thursday at 7 p.m. There will be a workshop and time for public discussion before and during the Thursday meeting.