Ferry budget changes but schedule doesnt

first_imgThis week’s legislative budget compromise shuffled the source of some of the money that pays for the Alaska Marine Highway System.Download AudioCrew members tie up the fast ferry Fairweather in Sitka. It and other marine highway ships will sail less in the next budget year. (Photo by Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska)But it doesn’t increase — or decrease — the number of routes or sailings.Ferry spokesman Jeremy Woodrow said the system will stick with its existing summer schedule, as well as a draft version for fall and winter.“So the marine highway system’s budget, if it were signed today, doesn’t change a whole lot,” Woodrow said. “So the proposed schedule that’s out there for review and comments, that will still move forward as is, as will any other future plans the marine highway system [has] for 2017.”The funding shuffle uses more money from the state’s general fund, which pays for the majority of the operating budget.Before the compromise, the ferry budget took more money from another fund. Woodrow said that’s used as a backup in case of emergencies.“It’s important to have that buffer there for other items that come up throughout the year,” Woodrow said. “When there’s deferred maintenance costs that are unexpected on vessels, it’s good to be able to dip into that system fund.”Without that money, the system would have to lay up a broken ship or ask lawmakers for additional money.Ferry officials said the budget, for the fiscal year beginning in July, will result in a 7% reduction in sailings. That’s in addition to cuts the year before.A public hearing on the fall and winter schedule will be June 22nd.last_img