Soldotna residents will pay a half a mill less in property tax in the upcoming fiscal year after a unanimous decision from the Soldotna City Council.
During the council's Wednesday meeting, an increase in water and sewer rates was approved as was the budget for the upcoming fiscal year; bids for improvements on the Soldotna Creek Park Veterans Memorial Project were rejected; council member Kyle Fisher submitted his resignation and the city code regarding conflicts of interest was amended.
The city's new mill rate was voted in at .65 and the city's new budget for fiscal year 2013 shows a 3.5-percent increase over last year. Sales tax revenue will increase by $700,000 a 10-percent jump over last year's budget.
"One thing that's been very important to the city in the last few years has been getting control of our finances," said Soldotna Mayor Peter Micciche during the meeting.
Fred Sturman, of Soldotna, spoke during the public comments portion of the hearing on the city's budget and asked the council to consider lowering the sales tax.
"It will help the businessmen in town and it'll be a better deal for most people living in town," he said. "You need to start looking out for these smaller businessmen in town because a lot of them are hurting right now."
Sturman also asked that more money be allocated toward blacktop repair.
"These streets will last longer than they are today," he said. "You've got to spend a few bucks."
His criticism was not without humor.
“With that, I'll leave it. I just come to complain a little bit," Sturman said as several council members laughed.
Micciche asked if Sturman recognized anything positive about the budget process.
"Oh I'm glad to see you guys cut taxes," Sturman said. "But most governments don't look out for people in town as much as they do for their own network."
Water rates are budgeted to increase by 2.5 percent and sewer by 6.5 percent for the next fiscal year based on recommendations from a water and sewer rate study commissioned by the city in 2010. This will bring the total water and sewer rates for a single family residence to $56.98.
Sturman also spoke during the public comments section of the water and sewer rate hike consideration.
"You know I think this is pretty petty myself," he said. "This is a pretty petty deal that I think you're wasting a lot of time on and it's not going to end up with a lot of money and you're always going to end up with more than you budgeted for in the year so I think you ought to just forget about it."
Council members thanked Sturman for speaking, then Micciche responded.
"The reason we embarked on this is that any increases to do with that individual program would be a minor correction for a longer period of time," he said. "They're tied to the study and we can certainly share that study with anyone interested in the increase in the cost of water and sewer."
Both the budget and the water and sewer rate hike passed unanimously.
A resolution was considered that would have authorized the city manager to sign a contract with the Youth Restoration Corps after their bid for the Soldotna Creek Park Veterans Memorial Project $20,705.
It failed 4-2.
Council member Dale Bagley said after the meeting there were issues regarding a nonprofit bidding against a for-profit.
"It was obviously a concern, but I think I'm very happy with postponing this until we do the final phase there at the Soldotna Creek Park," Bagley said.
According to the city's bid summary, Youth Restoration Corp and Carmody Masonry each put in bids, however Youth Restoration Corp's bid came in well below Carmody's of $34,375.
Micciche asked for volunteers to help him sort through the 60 applications the city had received for the city manager's position.
"We hope to have someone in that position to overlap with Mr. Simmons once he retires in October," Micciche said.
Council Member Kyle Fisher submitted 30-days notice of his resignation.
Micciche said no one had applied for his position yet.
"I think people are just starting to wake up to the fact that Mr. Fisher is leaving and we're sad about that," Micciche said. "He's been a very good council member."