Four non-departmental organizations made pitches to the finance committee for funding allocations in the Kenai Peninsula Borough fiscal year 2015 annual budget.
The draft budget currently calls for all four organizations to receive the same level of funding as they have for the past two years.
Non-departmentals are organizations such as non-profits that do not fall under a borough department or activity.
The borough assembly debated funding these organizations at a February meeting.
Assembly members Kelly Wolf, Wayne Ogle and Charlie Pierce sponsored a resolution to put an advisory vote on the 2014 ballot asking voters if the assembly should continue funding the organizations. The resolution drew a large crowd and more than one hour and 30 minutes of public comment — most of which was against the resolution. Wolf and Pierce cast the only votes in favor of it, so the resolution failed.
The Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council is scheduled to get $300,000 from the borough.
Shanon Hamrick, KPTMC executive director, said the council, which works to promote tourism on the Kenai Peninsula, said it is requesting the same amount.
However, it is looking to become a self-sustaining non-profit and if that happens, KPTMC would no longer request general fund money, Hamrick said.
She said other state destinations are out-marketing the peninsula. Juneau has a $1 million budget, Fairbanks is at $2.9 million and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough has a $900,000 budget. Along with the $300,000 from the borough general fund, KPTMC contributes about $275,000, she said.
To make the Kenai Peninsula more competitive, KPTMC is looking into implementing a bed tax. In 2005 voters considered a bed tax, but the measure failed. Hamrick said KPTMC has been speaking with local governments, the public, business and accommodation owners about trying again to establish a bed tax.
Using 2013 taxable sales figures, KPTMC calculated that a 4 percent bed tax would bring in $2.8 million.
She said 4 percent was chosen because Seward has a 4 percent bed tax and the “playing field” would be level borough wide, if implemented.
Bed tax collected within cities would go back to them. Of the $1.3 million that would be generated in unincorporated areas, she said KPTMC suggests 80 percent of the money would go back to whichever agency the borough chooses to market the peninsula. The remaining would go to the general fund.
She said the about $1 million that KPTMC would receive from the bed tax would, if passed, would be comparable to other areas.
The draft budget has set funding for the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District at $50,000. The last time the organization saw more than that amount was for $90,000 in FY2013.
The organization works to support businesses by helping to develop plans and provide training opportunities along with other services.
Rick Roeske, KPEDD executive director, said “Situations and Prospects,” a document about economic trends, is outdated and KPEDD is seeking additional funding to update it.
“KPEDD proposes to recreate the format into newer graphics and presentation style,” Roeske said … “This more traditional econometrics model will provide the community decision makers both in the private sector and as well as governmental the necessary tools given the fast-paced environment presenting itself in the Nikiski area.”
He said the update needs to be done now before the proposed Alaska Pipeline Project becomes a reality. He said the organization plans to have the document available on flash drives and in printed booklet form.
Roeske said KPEDD is requesting about the same funding as last year, as well as an additional $75,000 to produce an updated “Situations and Prospects.” He said that figure includes collecting data, printing and distributing.
He said KPEDD still gets many requests for the outdated document as well as where to get a current copy.
Central Area Rural Transit System, a non-profit, door-to-door demand response service, is scheduled to get $25,000.
Jennifer Beckmann, CARTS executive director, asked assembly members at the finance committee meeting Tuesday for $50,000, which she said is the amount the organization regularly requests. She said the $25,000 CARTS received last year represents about 2 percent of the organization’s budget.
Beckmann said the organization typically requests funding from the cities of Kenai and Soldotna. However, CARTS missed the deadline for Kenai this year. She spoke to the assembly about the organization and its growth during the past year.
“It’s been an interesting year,” she said.
The organization hit 200 rides for the first time one day last year, and now it’s the norm. On May 1, the company had a record day with 271 trips, she said.
CARTS began operating in Homer in the fall and provided 1,185 rides, Beckmann said.
“We’re pretty excited about that,” Beckmann said. “That was a long, long, long time coming. And we’re still working to refine that program, but we’re glad that it’s up and running.”
She said the organization is working with Seward to start running CARTS there.
The draft budget allocates $105,000 for the Small Business Development Center.
Bryan Zak, regional director for Southwest Alaska SBDC, said the organization is continuing to grow and said a three-year funding schedule would help the organization to better serve clients.
SBDC provides counseling, workshops and advocacy for small businesses. Zak said he travels to different communities throughout the peninsula to provide support.
He said if the borough provides funding for three years at a time, it would help SBDC to more strategically provide services to businesses.
“We have this economy that we need to maintain and encourage and prosper,” Zak said. … “It provides jobs and all of those jobs that are there, all of these small businesses, each contribute in so many ways to our daily lives.”
The Southwest Alaska SBDC is one of seven regions in Alaska. He said the organization is hosted by the University of Anchorage Alaska, so students are utilized to work on business plans.
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.