Proposed borough budget attracts protesters

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) Protesters gathered outside the Juanita Helms Administrative Center on Thursday night to protest the Fairbanks North Star Borough’s (FNSB) proposed 2020-2021 fiscal year budget.

The proposed budget is scheduled to be debated and potentially approved by the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly on May 14th. (Alex Bengel/KTVF)

As the Borough Assembly heard public testimony over the budget, residents who carrying signs and waving received sympathetic honks from passing cars.

Kerri Mullis, one of the protesters, said, “During these times when people are facing unemployment, furloughs, lack of income and challenges, we don’t think this is the right time to force the largest budget.”

In particular, Mullis has concerns about $1.9 million being spent on new borough vehicles and the hiring of 6 new permanent employees.

“It’s just been a really trying time, and this just isn’t the year to push this kind of budget,” Mullis said.

Jeffrey Rentzel, concerned citizen and candidate for Borough Assembly this year, urged residents to make their views known. “We need to take the borough back for the citizens of Fairbanks, and this is one way to let people know that we’re upset with what they’re doing,” he said.

“It’s very difficult to have such a bloated budget, especially in these hard financial times. We’re talking about taxes going up, people are not going to be able to afford housing, and businesses are not going to be able to afford to do business here in Fairbanks... and consequently they’re going to both leave. In order for us to turn that around, we need to control our spending.”

The budget, which was proposed by the Mayor's Office on April 2nd, was amended by the assembly finance committee throughout the month and finalized on April 25th.

Christine Robbins is from Citizens for Property Rights. She is protesting what she sees as the worst budget in the community’s history.

“People are out of their homes, being foreclosed upon because they can’t afford these pie in the sky projects that the borough keeps putting upon us,” she said.

FNSB Chief of Staff Jim Williams, who helped to prepare and revise the budget before the Mayor’s office submitted it to the assembly finance committee, encourages concerned community members to read the budget, which has gone through many changes since first proposed.
"A lot of the stuff folks were upset about we've pretty much taken care of, maybe not to the extent that they wanted, but we've pretty much hammered some of that stuff out already," he said.

Williams also encouraged the community to give feedback and questions to the borough.

The budget is set to be debated and potentially approved by the assembly on May 14th. More information on the budget can be found at http://www.fnsb.us/assembly/Pages/default.aspx

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