City officials ponder impacts of five percent state budget cuts

While the City of Valdez’s 50 plus million dollar a year revenue will not be threatened unless SB57 moves along, cuts to the State budget and their impacts could be felt in Valdez. Most notably, Dan O’Connor of Prince William Sound College is unsure at this point of the ramifications the cuts to the University of Alaska will have on PWSC. O’Connor said, “It’s a very serious threat at this point”. O’Connor said that on Monday all employees will receive a furlough notice. “There is a lot of uncertainty”. PWSC has approximately 40 full and part-time employees.

The Governor’s 5 percent rate reduction to hospitals and physicians does not apply to Providence in Valdez as it is considered a Critical Access Hospital and exempt from the rate cut. However, PVMC will experience an $110,000 annualized reduction and the long-term care facility will face a 3% rate reduction.

Superintendent Shawn Arnold spoke to the impact the lack of forward funding will have on Valdez City Schools, saying, “It’s tough to plan and predict what funding is going to be”. Arnold did cite the fact that he is very appreciative of the support the School District receives from the City of Valdez. The budget cuts will likely impact pre-school funding at Valdez City Schools and changes to the School Bond reimbursement program are of consideration. Robin James of Connecting Ties said the 5 percent cut will trim $10,547 from the organizations $210,933 yearly budget ($200,386) and said it would be difficult to operate at that level.

While the Fisheries Tax was included in Senate Bill 65 and House Bill 65, Mike Wells of Valdez Fisheries Development Association said these bills didn’t see any action in the last session and weren’t included in the Governor’s veto. The City of Valdez will continue to receive the $535,593 in total 2018 Fisheries Tax revenue but Wells told the audience “These are bills we want to continue to track”.

Comments from the audience included: questions about what impacts the cuts to PWSC would have on the Valdez High School Dual College credit program; information about value of public radio and impacts of cuts; information on impacts cuts have to Medicaid and healthcare in general; impassioned pleas for Valdez to “Save our way of life”; ideas to enhance tourism opportunities; information from organizations on how SB57 would impact their budgets/organizations; questions about the political process; questions about formulas and options used to calculate oil tax revenue; concerns over representation and communication with State officials and Ruth Knight urged Rauscher to look at re-districting. Ruth Knight called for additional taxes and Robin Brena said, “Let’s get fair value for our oil before we start imposing taxes”. So where does the community of Valdez go from here with the information gleaned in this meeting? Cutting the budget is definitely unchartered territory and Rauscher said, “There were a lot of surprises in Juneau”. With regard to where the legislature goes from here he responded, “There are a lot of options here”. He did mention “Things can be put into the capital budget that aren’t there now and we could call ourselves back into session”.