CBJ Assembly meets

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) A majority was not enough to put a question on the October ballot on daycare and early childhood education.

    In other actions, the Assembly failed to put on the October ballot a question that asks whether the community supports the CBJ providing funding for high quality child care and early childhood education.  The cost estimate in the fifth year of the program is $2.8 million and means a tax increase of .58 mills.  This would amount to $58 for every $100,000 in taxable value.  The vote is advisory and non binding.  The measure passed 4-3 but due to the recent resignations of Assembly members Beth Weldon and Norton Gregory, who are running for Mayor, the Assembly needed five votes to approve the measure.

    Supporters said there is a gap in day care that is driving families out of Juneau.  Joy Lyon of Juneau said the ages from birth to five are critical and that child care is very important to the community economy.  "Were asking you to let the people vote, let them get informed on the issue, and let them weigh in on the issue."

    Kevin Ritchie said the question is does the public want to pay for this.  "When schools were set up 100 years ago and they knew that ages birth to five were that important, they would have made the system very different."

    Retired teachers said kids deserve equal access to literacy and a wonderful education.  They noted the program would be safe, engaging, and rich in learning.  They spoke on the importance of having children be successful and its impact on the future of Juneau.

    Mayor Ken Koelsch said he met with many parents, employers and advocates.  "Child care always comes up first.  The educational component comes up after the childcare as something that is very desirable but not the first thing."

    Koelsch said the proposition should be on child care alone and not mention the $2.8 million cost from property tax.  "I think there are other creative ways to work with the school district and other entities to not use property tax on this."

    Assembly member Maria Gladziszewski said the CBJ doesn't have $2.8 million lying around for this.  She said some increase in property taxes would be required.  "We can cobble together a different funding package but it will likely require some increase in revenue.  To me its not just people voting we support child care, we have to pay for it."

    Assembly member Loren Jones said they need to get more kids ready for kindergarten.  She said its important to let the public know the estimated cost and where they could get the money.  "It would be totally unfair to the public to put something out and not tell them where we are getting the money."

    Assembly member Rob Edwardson said early child hood education could be a solution for many of the problems the community faces like homelessness and drug problems.

    Assembly member Mary Becker said as a teacher she had students whose home life was not the best.  She said she 100 percent supports putting money into preschool.  "Maybe the state should be at the table to give money to this community for our kids.  It is a very expensive proposition.  If the vote goes as a yes, we will have to make decisions on where we get the money.  It will take away from things we also should be supporting."

    She said she would like to divide the questions, one for day care and one for preschool.  "There are some families that won't be able to afford this program and most of the families will receive money.  Letting the people vote sounds like the right thing to do.  At the same time it is an expensive vote."

    She questioned whether $2.8 million will be enough and noted it is a recurring expense. "I want to do what's best for kids.  I'm not sure if this is the best thing because this city has many people and not all of them have kids."

    Vice Mayor Jerry Nankervis said she liked some of the things in the ballot question.  He said the city put $28 million into the school district, $1.3 million above the cap, this year.  "This would subsidize and increase day care wages by 50 percent.  This causes me great concern.  I appreciate what people are trying to do with this. I don't like manipulating wages in the private sector."

    Nankervis said the CBJ will have to make budget cuts to pay for this program.  He also defended the quality of existing licensed and non licensed day care in Juneau.  "I think this should be a state program and not a city program.  The state has tight financial constraints, but has far more money to handle a program like this."  He predicted the CBJ will have to cut the budget or raise taxes for this.

    Assembly member Jesse Kiehl said its important to let the ballot move forward.  "Our economic development plan calls very explicitly for us to address the child care issue in Juneau."  He added the state does offer over $600 for child care for families.  He also said families will continue to leave town if the issue is not addressed.  He said the question will give a clear picture to voters on the cost of these programs.  "Let voters decide a major question.  The city hasn't been in this business before.  Its a major decision to see should the city get in."

    Members Kiehl, Edwardson, Gladziszewski and Jones voted in favor while Assembly members Nankervis, Becker and Mayor Koelsch were opposed.

    In other actions;

    Mayor Koelsch also read a proclamation to honor Dan Austin who  passed away on July 25 at the age of 71..  He was a founding member of the Juneau Housing Coalition.  He also helped increase the St. Vincent De Paul housing for the homeless, worked on housing for disadvantaged seniors, and worked hard on the Glory Hole shelter and the Housing First project.  He worked for 30 years on behalf of the homeless population in Juneau.

    The Assembly also honored City Attorney Amy Mead who will soon become a Superior Court Judge in Juneau.  She has worked for the CBJ since 2010.  She has served as municipal attorney since 2013.  "I'm not saying she was tough on us.  It was no surprise that Ms. Mead was appointed to the bench," Mayor Koelsch added.  He said Mead will be difficult to replace.

    Mead said this was one of the best jobs she has ever hard.  "In my experience the people that run and work for the city are some of the best people in our city.  They do everything they can every day to make it a better place."

    The Assembly introduced an ordinance to accept $74,000 in donations from the community for Project Playground, and decided not to oppose the renewal for permits for six marijuana related businesses.

    They also approved an ordinance to appropriate $2.25 million for capital projects at Juneau International Airport.  The funds are provided by passenger facility charge fees.  These projects include a Master Plan study for $61,227, rehab of taxiways A&E for $1.13 million, $64,610 to rehabilitate the airport access road, $228,251 to construct the northeast and northwest apron, and $643,700 for the sand and chemicals building.

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