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This month, Elena Gustafson, youth development specialist at Sitkans Against Family Violence (SAFV), will visit second through fifth grade classrooms to deliver safety presentations. She discussed how these presentations might empower students and help prevent child abuse.
With oil revenues expected to decline, Gov. Sean Parnell wants to cut the state’s budget by $1 billion next year and then use another billion in savings to balance the rest. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports.
If Gov. Sean Parnell had one big talking point while unveiling his budget proposal, this was it:
PARNELL: “Lower revenue means we tighten our belts now.” “We need to tighten our belts on expenses.” “Nobody’s denying that we are tightening our belts.”
At an Anchorage Chamber of Commerce luncheon and then again with reporters, Parnell emphasized the need to pull back on state spending. At $12.4 billion, his budget for the 2015 fiscal year is smaller than the $13.4 billion one currently in place.
Appropriations from the state’s unrestricted general fund — the pot of money that lawmakers are free to appropriate without any strings attached — amount to $5.6 billion. The next biggest funding source is the federal government, which is contributing $3.1 billion to Alaska’s government.
Parnell’s plan keeps agency operations mostly flat at $7.6 billion, and Parnell announced that 150 state jobs were being cut to save money.
The proposal shrinks the capital budget by a third, with the state substantially cutting back its contribution. Of the $1.7 billion allocated for infrastructure, just $430 million is coming from Alaska’s unrestricted general fund. The federal government is footing most of the difference.
There’s also less money for megaprojects. This past year, the Susitna-Watana Hydro Project got nearly $100 million. Now, Parnell’s asking for $10 million. The funding request for the Knik Arm Bridge project has also been halved to $5 million.
Even with the cuts, the state faces a billion-dollar deficit under the proposal. That money would have to come out of the state’s $17 billion rainy day fund. Under the budget that was enacted for this fiscal year, that savings account is already expected to take a $2 billion hit.
The biggest item in the budget isn’t a project at all. It’s a $3 billion transfer from the state’s budget reserves that would be used to help pay off the state’s unfunded pension liabilities. Parnell says it’s a bipartisan goal which should keep Alaska’s future debt under control.
“It would be akin to Congress and the President making the Social Security sustainable over time,” Parnell told reporters on Thursday afternoon. “From a state standpoint, this is about as significant as it gets to
address the single largest cost driver of our operating budget.”
There is a chance that Parnell’s budget proposal could grow after the Legislature gets a chance to review the document. Parnell expects them to put in some of their own capital projects and have different priorities when it comes to state agencies. He says he wants them to show restraint, but he hasn’t named a hard number for a spending cap.
“I wanted to leave room for legislators,” said Parnell. “I wanted to lower the band of spending again, given lower revenues. Every department was asked to produce savings in line with that and with the proportion of general fund dollars had in their budget.”
Legislators will get their crack at the document when they reconvene in Juneau on January 21.
The Sitka Assembly unanimously approved the latest design for the expansion of Kettleson Memorial Library, at their regular meeting on Tuesday night (12-10-13).
In a work session before the meeting, the assembly heard from library director Sarah Bell, and from Paul Voelckers of MRV Architects in Juneau, which is designing the renovation. Bell said the new building is being designed to accommodate the changing role of libraries in the 21st century.
“I think what libraries are evolving to, is somewhat of a community center,” Bell said. “It’s a place where people can come and share what they consider important.”
To that end, the new design features two folding walls that would allow the library to open up the full space for large events or curtain off separate, nearly sound-proof rooms to allow multiple smaller gatherings, like classes or meetings, to take place at once.
And despite a 60 percent expansion, the library will have about the same amount of shelf-space for books – or even less than it currently has. Bell and Voelckers said that as people increasingly access nonfiction, research and reference materials online, libraries are focusing their physical collections on things like fiction. In an exchange with assembly member Phyllis Hackett, Bell said that maintaining a physical collection of books is no longer the library’s sole mission:
BELL So we are cleaning the collection right now, we are weeding that collection.
HACKETT Is there room in this design to add more stacks if need be?
BELL Well, that’s not the direction libraries are headed.
The new design includes a separate room for computers and technology, and an expanded teen section, removed from the children’s area and separated from the main space by a glass wall. This is architect Paul Voelckers.
“Teen population library use is a key growing element that libraries everywhere are experiencing,” Voelckers said. “A lot of collaborative school projects, socialization, all of those kinds of things have really pushed teen use of public libraries, so it’s a nice phenomenon.”
But, Bell said, Kettleson also must continue to serve a large constituency of older users who like the traditional library experience.
“Not everybody wants to download to a kindle or a computer,” Bell said. “Maybe they like their cds. So we try to meet all those needs. You can download audio books and e-books through Kettleson, through the state library, and you can come in and use computers if you so desire. But you can also come in and pick up a magazine or a newspaper.”
Voelckers said the building will be modern in another way, as well – when finished, it should be the most energy efficient building in town.
The library has over $6 million on hand for the project – $5.7 million from the state, and $450,000 in donations and fundraising. It’s still hoping to raise another $265,000 to cover additional features including the second folding wall, outdoor landscaping, and better interior carpeting and furniture.
Voelckers said he expects to have a final design ready by May, with construction to begin in August, 2014. Public works director Michael Harmon said the goal is to finish construction on the library before construction on the Centennial Building begins in 2015.
JUNEAU — Gov. Sean Parnell is proposing a $12.4 billion state budget for next year that would require $1.1 billion from savings to balance even before legislators get their hands on it.
Parnell has said he would introduce a budget that gives lawmakers some room to add though he said he would work with them on an overall spending cap.
The total current-year budget is $13.4 billion.
Assembly approves latest design for Kettleson Memorial Library. Questions about the Affordable Care Act answered. New regulatory system for halibut charter boat operators.
Activists from across the country are asking Georgia's governor to support an investigation into the death of Kendrick Johnson, 17, who was discovered dead in a high school gymnasium almost a year ago. State investigators ruled out foul play, but Johnson's parents don't believe it.
The storm's damage and disruption to homes, cities and families is undisputed. But researchers studying the underwater coastline say Long Island fared relatively well. The face of the shore retained much of its shape because underwater ridges of sand just offshore may have cushioned the blow.
Some Ketchikan residents will experience a disruption in their long-distance telephone service Friday night, lasting until early Saturday morning.
According to Ketchikan Public Utilities Telecommunications Division, their customers and those of other providers that use AT&T long distance will not have service from about 11 p.m. Friday until around 7 a.m. Saturday.
The disruption is the result of an AT&T upgrade. It also will affect those using AT&T’s cellular service.
To find out whether you will be affected, contact your phone service provider.