Assembly passes budget, raises mill rate

Editor's note: This story will be updated with more detail.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly passed its fiscal year 2019 budget at its Tuesday meeting, with a slight increase to school funding and a mill rate increase.

The budget includes about $50.39 million in local support to the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, about $650,000 more than the funding the borough provided last year. In concert with a one-time funding amount of $1.4 million from the state, that allows the school district administration to avoid cutting the 11.5 full-time equivalent teaching positions it had estimated needed to be cut.

The assembly also increased the mill rate by 0.2 mills, setting it at 4.7 mills for the next year, to help pay for the increased budget without using the borough's fund balance. That doesn't make up the entire gap — it raises about $1.6 million.

Voters will get to decide on at least one ballot measure this fall as well. The assembly unanimously approved an approximately $5.5 million bond package subject to voter approval, part of a match for a state grant to pay for a new school at the Russian Old Believer village of Kachemak Selo.

They declined a proposal to ask voters to increase the borough sales tax from 3 percent to 3.5 percent on a 5-4 vote, with members Kelly Cooper, Hal Smalley, Paul Fischer and Willy Dunne in favor.

The borough assembly is considering a number of other tax options, including reducing the sales tax exemption on nonprepared foods from nine months to six months, a bed tax and an idea from Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce's administration to place an excise tax on cigarettes.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at eearl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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