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Soldotna lowers mill rate, funds projects

Mill rate drops to 0.5, sports center and Soldotna Creek Park funds appropriated

Posted: June 13, 2013 - 8:46pm

The city of Soldotna lowered its property tax levy rate at Wednesday night’s council meeting.

The rate will drop from 0.65 mills to 0.5 mills. With the new, decreased rate, for every $100,000 of house, owners will pay $50.

Council member Dale Bagley moved to lower the rate. He said it’s something he thinks the city can afford even with a “very large general fund.”

Council member John Czarnezki opposed the change.

“We have a deficit budget, and I don’t think it’s responsible to be decreasing revenues when we’re in the position we’re in,” Czarnezki said. “I think it’s very difficult to have to raise a mill rate later on if we need to. ... I think there’s a value to paying our share or a portion of our share for the services we get.”

Council member Pete Sprague was in favor of lowering the rate.

“It’s not a very large amount,” Sprague said. “It won’t have a monumental impact on our fund balance either way. I think this is a way to help the property owners in some small way.”

Council member Brenda Hartman was against the change.

“We’ve decreased the mill rate the last two years,” Hartman said. … “We are paying less than the people outside the city, I don’t see that it hurts us to go a year with not decreasing and seeing where we stand. In a year, if we look at it again, we can always decrease it.”

The vote on lowering the mill rate was split with Bagley, Sprague and council member Nancy Eoff for the change and Czarnezki, Hartman and council member Regina Daniels against. Mayor Nels Anderson broke the tie with a vote for lowering the rate. The amended resolution passed.

City Manager Mark Dixson said he has discussed the mill rate with residents, and he estimates about half of the people he talked to are in favor of the change and half are against it.

“It’s such a small amount of our entire budget; it’s going to have little effect on the budget at this point,” Dixson said. “Right now our sales tax income is strong, so we’re not relying on property taxes for city functions.”

Sales tax for fiscal year 2013 has increased 2.74 percent from its original estimation.

“I don’t see any change in our sales tax revenues over the next year or so unless there’s something dramatic that happens with the nationwide or world economy that affects tourism or affects the economy as a whole,” Dixson said.

The council allocated funds to the Parks and Recreation Department for two different projects at the meeting.

The first project discussed was the Soldotna Sports Center Master Plan. Council voted to waive the formal bidding procedures and allocate funds to the Parks and Recreation department to execute a contract with Casey Planning and Design in the amount of $67,375 for the plan.

Sprague raised concerns about not going through with public process and the bidding procedures.

Dixson said the city will save not only money, but also time by waiving the process.

Sprague was the only opposing council member when the vote was called.

Final approval by the city council for the sports center master plan is scheduled for September.

The second project discussed was the Soldotna Creek Park Improvement Project. Council voted to appropriate more funding to the project under Ordinance 2013-17 and to enter contract with Peninsula Construction Inc. in Resolution 2013-38.

Of the three bids the city received, all were higher than anticipated. The ordinance appropriating more funding called for $340,000 in addition to the current available funds to reach Peninsula Construction Inc.’s bid for the basic improvements to the park. The basic bid improvements include: trails, restrooms, a pavilion, a veteran’s memorial, a plaza, information signage and parking lot paving among other improvements. The total cost for basic bid expenses is $968,536.

Bagley moved to amend the ordinance to allocate funds for additional alternatives two and three, increasing the appropriation of additional funds to $547,000. These additions are for parking lot lighting and trail lighting. Additional alternative one is a wood fence, rose garden and pipe rail fence.

“I think it’d be a great asset to our community to have the parking lot lit and the trail system there lit,” Bagley said.

Hartman agreed with Bagley.

“It only makes sense to do it once by adding your lighting in and not having to go back again,” Hartman said. … “I think that the rose garden and the fencing can be done after electrical.”

The amendment to appropriate additional funds of $547,000 to the project passed unanimously as did the resolution to enter a contract with Peninsula Construct Inc. for a total of $1,175,536.

One of the last agenda items was the appointment of new city clerk, Shellie Saner. A committee reviewed and interviewed applicants. City clerk is the only administration position aside from city manager that requires council confirmation. Saner is currently the deputy clerk for the Kenai Peninsula Borough. She is scheduled to begin as Soldotna city clerk on June 24.

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

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