Soldotna budget: 'An investment in our future'

The City of Soldotna has held two work sessions for its fiscal year 2014 proposed operating budget.

 

City Manager Mark Dixson summed up the entire budget as “an investment in our future.”

One of those investments for the future is developing a more streamlined process for establishing local businesses.

“I’ve heard throughout the community we are not necessarily business friendly,” Dixson said, “and we need to start being business friendly not only to the business that are here but in enticing other businesses to come here.”

Dixson said he spoke to a businessman who said with the permitting process, sign ordinances and landscaping, pavement and building regulations, it would be less costly for him to build his business outside of city limits.

“There are so many steps going forward just to get a business created here,” Dixson said. “It’s just burdensome, and we don’t want to be known as that type of community.”

To refine the process, Dixson wants to hire a city planner in the planning and zoning department. Stephanie Queen, current director of planning and community development, would become the director of economic development and planning. Her position would then focus on the economic development of the community.

“Our goal is to develop a fluid process so that it is easy for people to get their businesses up and running,” Dixson said.

Dixson said the two-staff department has “their hands in everything.” Adding a third person would make the department more proficient.

“I am 100 percent certain of this change in this department,” he said.

The budget also suggests a staffing change in the finance department with the eliminating of the part-time receptionist position and the creation of a part-time administrative assistant position to assist the human resources manager and administer HR-related programs.

With the expansion of the library, funding for the addition of a part-time position has also been proposed for that department.

Another part of investing in the future of Soldotna Dixson said is “investing in our people not only in regard to the amount of staff, but also in training.”

The budget calls for an increase in funds for city employee training. Expenditures for travel and training is increasing by 17.02 percent in all budgetary funds — a $15,620 difference from the FY13 original budget.

Funding has also been allocated for realigning city employee’s salary schedules to be more competitive in the marketplace and inline with what Kenai pays its city employees.

Dixson said that for those people affected “any small increase is big,” but overall the change in salary schedules wasn’t a significant increase.

The budget also proposes investing in physical assets.

Dixson said many of the items are small but they add up in the budget. Some of these investments include a snow-blower head replacement and a new mower.

“We’ve been putting Band-Aids on pieces of equipment or buildings,” Dixson said, “and what’s happening is we’re spending more on repair than actually doing stuff.”

The next budget work session is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. June 12.

Kaylee Osowski can be reached at kaylee.osowski@peninsulaclarion.com.

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