Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Waste on council's plate this budget season

The Mat-Su Borough Landfill
The biggest loser in the City of Palmer’s proposed budget involves solid waste instead of waistlines.

As reflected in the proposed budget presented in mid-October by city manager Doug Griffin, the Solid Waste fund reflects a deficit of $102,295 for 2013. Chalk it up to flat revenues and a "significant increase in tipping fees at the Borough Landfill in each of the last two years,” Griffin states. “This highlights a need for a review of solid waste rates to get this service back to at least a break-even enterprise operation.”

The manager otherwise anticipates small spending increases throughout the budget plus a nearly $200,000 general fund surplus, according to a written summary. An exception: The Fire Department budget increases more 15 percent, from $604,221 to $715,586, including a substantial compensation increase for volunteer fire fighters. The Greater Palmer Fire Service Association will pay half of the salary increase. 

Animal Control expenditures will also increase significantly, from $4,000 to $16,000. The budget was increased to account for proposed increases in shelter fees that the Mat-Su Borough is planning, although the contract is not yet finalized, according to the budget summary. 

A few slightly larger increases would bring the deputy clerk up to full time - an 8 percent increase from this year - and hire a part-time assistant for the airport manager. 

And in one of the most hotly discussed aspects of the budget, employee health insurance, Griffin suggests that employees now totally covered by the city move to an 80/20 plan “with relatively modest deductibles. If premiums increase 11 percent or less, employees will still not have to contribute, he said. 

In other waste-related news, the city council on Tuesday night approved spending $58,338 on a water/wastewater service rate study by consultant HDR. The city got a grant from the Legislature to fund a rate study. 

Check out the manager's budget at the city's Web site,

-- Zaz Hollander

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