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Monday, April 29, 2013

TIME TO FEED SOME UNICORNS



The next couple of weeks the borough assembly will be conducting a tango line of meetings that will probably have more impact in valley life than any meeting all year. The borough has gotten their final love letter from Juneau with money kisses (sans any poison veto darts from the governor)  and its almost time to feed the unicorns by filling the holes in the budget and start digging a few new ones.

The manager of the borough (who besides John Boehner probably has the worse job ever) along with his department heads (except the one that packed up and left last week) presented the budgets in two meetings. If you needed a dose of depression that was the place to be.

Yep, all the department heads breaking out their top hat and canes trying to dance through the minefields  presenting a flat budget as they were expected to do. A chorus of pathetic professional pleadings for ample funding and people in the workforce to do the job from an assembly that rarely, if ever even bothers to measure whether or not something is working before they proceed confidently to the next big thing. .


There were a couple of floats decorated with accomplishments for last year were in spite ongoing decreases in people to do the job. But the list was shorter this year as everyone recognized that there is just so much water you can cover when the boat is left with little crew and the oars are sitting on the dock. The low moral in the room was almost palatable. 

After a couple of years of being told to do more with less and being pulled in many different directions the new directive is that employee "flextime" is to be eliminated. The borough has used the concept of flextime for many years and it has saved the borough thousands in overtime pay but is also an  important tool in the public process. Over a third of valley residents drive to Anchorage every day to work. It's impossible for them to attend hearings and public meetings during the day. Having employees able to work flextime (adjusting starting and quitting time from a range of available hours) allows the public to have borough staff available at community council , road and fire service board meetings, speak to community groups that meet at night and most importantly be available at platting, planning commission or assembly meetings to answer questions from members of the public or those sitting in the chairs making the decisions that effect residents that don't bother to read their packet or get questions answered during the day. When asked the finance department alone determined it would increase their budget by some $50,000 to eliminate flextime for the overtime that will be needed during election, property tax appeal time and other labor intense times of the year. 

If this decision stands we can shut the door on public process and expect it to cost more to operate the already limping along borough. A door that was has been barely propped open lately. Another knee jerk reaction to a perceived  problem. We aren't willing to say there isn't some abuses in all of the borough as we have found days ourselves that much of staff is out of the building but if there is shouldn't it be identified and addressed by management to establish a core part of the day employees must be at work and work with the rest of the day? Micromanaging staff by SOME ceremonial mayors and assembly members has become tiresome and expensive in so many ways. 


Hard to tell by what was presented and heard that our borough is not only the fastest growing place in Alaska, the state has the lowest unemployment rate in over 5 years.Never know that voters had such confidence in our growth a couple elections ago that they agreed to the biggest school and road bond in the history of the borough. Or that 40% of "all new housing construction in Alaska occurred in the Mat-Su in 2011". And it wasn't even a peak year.

Yet in this budget presented to the assembly there is NO increase in funds to the school district. NONE. The borough already at the bottom of the list in local governments in providing financial support to education has nothing but the minimum for this year included in the budget presented. 

Along with that NO matching money for grants for social and health programs. NONE. 

Plenty in there for a port that is a beast that can't be fed enough. Plenty for economic development and subsidies for business as the assembly found new ways to make sure their tax obligation was even lower this year. 

Our borough employs only about 50 people in full or part time positions for emergency services and over 90% are on call volunteers to our borough and cities which make up a land mass the size of Scotland. Should make you hope enough are available for YOUR ambulance ride, to handle the car on the side of the road during your commute that turned suddenly into an accordion and the passenger inside who had a very bad morning is waiting for the jaws of life.

The assembly has head from the staff of the borough. This week Tuesday at 6pm at the school district building and Thursday at 6pm in Wasilla at the Central Fire Station they will be ready to hear from you. We are hoping they get an ear full. The assembly has quite a task ahead of them. The shells they will need for the shell game might become the next man made beach in the borough which would fit in just about right to this band of dreamers. 

It's pretty clear your assembly wants smaller government for the same reason crooks want fewer cops. It's easier to get away with your property tax dollars. 




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