In her state of Kenai address Wednesday, Kenai Mayor Pat Porter told about 50 business owners, local politicians and city officials in the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Center that Kenai is economically sound.
The city has “not only a high quality of life, but (it is) also open for business,” Porter said. “Our city is in good shape for residents and business people alike.”
More homes are selling, and more business are building facilities. The personal use dipnet fishery is financially self-sustainable, and residents will not have to subsidize Vintage Pointe Manor, Porter said.
The city does, however, expect its employee health care costs to rise 20 percent next budget cycle, she said. Residents may have to shoulder the cost, she said.
The city is spending $11,085,000 in on-going capital projects for the fiscal year 2013-2014, Porter said. The city’s annual budget is $24,058,316, 5.4 percent greater than last year’s, she said.
The city’s property tax levies are projected to take in $280,000, and sales tax is projected to rise by $100,000, Finance Director Terry Eubank said. Sales and property tax rates will remain the same for next year, he said.
The city also has one of the lowest mill rates — a formula used to calculate property taxes — in Alaska, Porter said.
Realtor, Fred Braun said the city is selling more homes than its sister city, Soldotna. Kenai sold 58 homes in 2011; Soldotna sold 57 that year, he said. And in 2012 Kenai sold 75 homes to Soldotna’s 44, he said.
“If this current rate continues … that will put us at about 88 to 85 homes (sold) for this 2013 year,” Braun said.
Kenai is also selling real estate in the commercial market, he said. Two new companies signed an eight-year-lease, he said. A typical lease is for three or four years, he said.
Expro Americas LLC, a business operating two buildings in the city already, is breaking ground for a third building, he said.
And the nearly three-year-vacant Home Décor building began renovations Monday for a medical facility and professional office space, he said.
The development is a sign of good stability, Braun said.
Porter said the dipnet fishery stabilized this year. The city’s fishery fees now cover the maintenance costs during the three weeks that Kenai swells to the state’s fourth largest city with dipnetters, she said.
The city also closed on the cleanest dipnet season it has experienced in seven years, City Manager Rick Koch said. Users dumped fish waste in the fishery’s low-tide line and trash in the beachside dumpsters, he said.
Based on information collected in credit card payments, five-percent of the dipnetters are Kenai residents, Porter said. The city garnered $72,000 through credit card payments, she said, of the total fishery revenue earned.
Porter said Vintage Pointe Manor residents will continue to see rises in their monthly rent. The city this year increased the senior center’s rent by $50 because rent had not increased in five years, she said.
In an effort to match the Anchorage Consumer Price Index, and avoid subsidizing the facility, the city will raise the facility’s rent another $35 next year, she said.
Porter said the direction the city is headed excites her.
Dan Schwartz can be reached at email@example.com.