Navarre eyes state budgets, plans more trips to Juneau

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre traveled to Juneau last week to meet with legislators and other state officials as part of ongoing lobbying efforts aimed at watching the state capital and operating budget processes.

 

Navarre said he is particularly concerned about making sure legislators from the Kenai Peninsula and other areas are aware of the borough's needs and capital requests. The borough doesn't hire its own state lobbyist -- unlike other larger municipalities -- and Navarre said he would continue to be active in the state processes and discussions.

"I can play that role as mayor and not have to hire a lobbyist," he said.
On March 1 and 2, Navarre met with local legislators and their staffs in Juneau, including members of Gov. Sean Parnell's administration, to discuss the borough's capital budget requests and to get a feel for possible education funding.

The borough submitted its state capital requests in a two-tier form requesting high priority consideration on $10 million for a gas pipeline extension from Anchor Point to Homer, $5.1 million for school athletic facilities upgrades, $2 million for hazardous tree removal, $2.6 million for a school district-wide security camera system. In its second tier it has requested $4.5 million for HVAC system replacements and $1.5 million for a central peninsula landfill maintenance building.

"Those are all in the mill," Navarre said. "So I was mostly touching base with them and finding out what additional information they needed as back up. There are two parts to it -- one, it has to get in the capital budget, and the second part is making sure there is ample back up and justification so when its gets to the governor's office they can support it."

Navarre said the gas line to Homer is a "big project" for southern Peninsula residents and was a topic of discussion among lawmakers and staff in Juneau.

"I guess I am optimistic we will see that in the budget and we are talking about ways that we get support for a tariff so part of it will be paid for by the folks in Homer," he said, adding the borough is also gathering information on cost savings the line would provide to state and borough-owned facilities.

"Only a portion of it would be a tariff," he said. "What they are looking at is just trying to make sure that there is going to be significant benefit from a gas line and that they should be able to provide some of the cost of it and that is what they are looking at a tariff for and then the rest would be through a capital grant. That's what we hope happens."

Navarre is also keeping an eye on the state's funding of education as that level has an impact on a number of other budgets.

"Figuring out what the state is going to do helps us determine and gives our school board and school district administration a heads up to what our level of funding will be," he said.

More funding from the state might mean less funding needed at the borough level as the school district's costs continue to rise due to inflation and other factors, but Navarre said he didn't receive any indication of where or how state funding formulas might change in the new budgets.

"I'm sure they will increase it some, but that is all being negotiated right now," he said. "It is kind of a wait-and-see deal."

Navarre plans on returning to Juneau in April to make sure the borough's interests are heard, in addition to staying in "constant contact" from home, he said.

"As things start going together lots of questions pop up about, 'What's important about this?' Or 'What other back-up do you have for this?'" he said. "If you are there you can answer those questions directly and probably can help influence whether they can stay in or fall out of the various budgets."

Brian Smith can be reached at brian.smith@peninsulaclarion.com.

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