Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting goers were greeted by two people — one of whom was dressed in a green frog costume — asking to save Kenai Peninsula College’s funding.
The duo was protesting a resolution to put an advisory proposition on the 2014 ballot asking voters if the assembly should continue to fund non-departmentals, including non-profits and post secondary programs.
The resolution, sponsored by assembly members Kelly Wolf, Wayne Ogle and Charlie Pierce, saw a full house and drew about an hour and 40 minutes of testimony from about 20 people. Following public comments and assembly discussion, the resolution failed with Wolf and Pierce casting the only votes in favor of putting the question out for an advisory vote.
Most of the testimony was specific to KPC funding and the programs it provides. In 1990 voters chose to give the borough the authority to fund post-secondary schools up to 0.1 mills. KPC Director Gary Turner said the borough money the college receives makes up about 4 percent of its revenues, or about $697,000.
Turner said the money specifically goes toward the college’s Resurrection Bay Extension site courses, career center, library support at the Kenai River Campus and Kachemak Bay Campus, a veterans services coordinator, tutors at both campuses, and the JumpStart program, which allows high school students to take KPC classes at a reduced cost, among other services and positions.
Multiple KPC students and staff members testified to how the programs the $697,000 provides has helped students be successful during their time at KPC.
Scott Sellers, a seventh semester KPC student and resident advisor, said the borough money has had a personal impact on his college career. He said he would not have a high grade point average without help from tutors.
“As good as I am at writing an essay,” he said, “I’m horrible at algebra and without the tutors you guys pay for I wouldn’t have a 3.81. … As a resident advisor, it’s very easy for me to walk one of my students over, take them into the math lab and know that they’re going to be OK.”
Adjunct KPC professor and Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education member Penny Vadla said the JumpStart program is “phenomenal” and needs to continue.
“In my mind an educated society is an informed society and an informed society generally makes wise decision. … The more young people we can educate and the more young people we can encourage to stay in this community, the better the community will become,” Vadla said.
Representatives from non-profits that work to develop the economy of the peninsula spoke to the assembly about the importance of continued funding for their organizations.
Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District Executive Director Rick Roeske said the organization gets some federal funding and the borough matches those funds. He said if the borough were to cut back on funding KPEDD, it would have a “serious impact.”
“(KPEDD) has done great work in the past. With your funding going forward, if this isn’t adopted, then we’ll continue that,” he said to the assembly.
Kenai Peninsula Tourism and Marketing Council representatives Michelle Glaves, council president, and Shanon Hamrick, executive director, each testified to the assembly about the council’s work and its efforts to become self-sustaining.
Hamrick said the council works to promote tourism on the peninsula to drive sales tax dollars and be competitive with other regions in the state.
The council is in the preliminary stages of developing a bed tax to fund it, Glaves said.
Hamrick said the council will be asking for money in the upcoming budget, but once a bed tax is established, the council or whichever agency the borough contracts to market the peninsula, will receive those funds.
Following public comments, the assembly discussed the resolution and considered two amendments.
Assembly President Hal Smalley said he cannot imagine cutting funding to agencies that contribute to the economy of the borough.
“(They’re) significantly important to our borough, to our way of life,” he said.
Wolf said the non-profits on the peninsula have a purpose and he didn’t want the issue to go to a “hard vote, ” so he requested an advisory vote.
Assembly member Dale Bagley proposed to amend the resolution to ask voters if the borough should continue to fund certain non-departmentals including: KPEDD, KPTMC, KPC, Central Area Rural Transit System and Small Business Development Center.
Pierce said listing specific agencies changes the intent of the resolution. Assembly member Wayne Ogle agreed with Pierce and said he doesn’t want to target individual organizations.
The amendment failed by one vote with assembly members Bagley, Brent Johnson, Sue McClure and Bill Smith casting the four votes in favor of the amendment.
Johnson then moved to amend the resolution by revising the question to ask the public to vote individually on three organizations — CARTS, SBDC and KPEDD — as to whether they want the borough to continue funding them.
He said he removed KPC from the list based on the 1990 vote to fund the college up to 0.1 mills. Johnson removed KPTMC from the resolution because the council is seeking funding via a bed tax.
Johnson and Smith cast the only two votes in favor of the amendment.
The assembly then considered the original resolution.
Before the vote Pierce said he thinks the resolution is dead and hopes during the budget process the assembly can do a good job determining what to fund and by how much.
Wolf said the people who testified made their opinions clear.
“I think we let this dog die,” he said.
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.