Borough, school district budgets look reasonable

Although neither are finalized, budgets recently proposed by the Kenai Peninsula Borough and approved by the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District appear to be what we'd expect -- responsible.

The borough's $73.1 million spending plan compiled by Borough Mayor Mike Navarre is a balanced approach to mitigating large increases in borough health care and personnel costs, including cost of living and negotiated raises. It also puts our fund balance in good condition by only drawing $1 million, leaving it at $20 million.

The increase in expenses is not drastic -- only $1.7 million more from former mayor Dave Carey's 2012 budget.

However, the budget is not balanced and this editorial board will continue to advocate for balanced budgets at all levels of government. We would like to see the assembly take a closer look at balancing this budget without an increase in taxes.

We also would encourage Navarre to take another look at the two positions he is proposing to add to the borough. If those positions are indeed necessary to meet citizens' demands -- and the cost-benefit analysis pencils out -- then we approve. But we remind Navarre that government growth is hard to stymie once it starts.

Navarre also said after Tuesday's borough assembly meeting that he would take a serious look, department by department, at expenses and revenues in formulation of the fiscal year 2014 budget. He said this budget cycle snuck up on him and with all the issues he's faced in his first several months we can understand his desire for a status quo budget this year. But, again, we remind Navarre that was a campaign promise and we expect to see results next year.

We are encouraged to see the school district will likely be operating in the black this year. As a non-taxing entity, the district is in a hard position -- it must always live within its means and it depends on the state and borough for its funding.

While we're happy to fund the school district's needs, we would like district officials to only fund what's responsible and sustainable. Increased funding from the state should be spent prudently and we hope for a balanced budget pending ongoing negotiations with the school district's two unions.
 
In short: We are encouraged by budgets proposed by both the borough and the school district. They both appear to be living within their means while also meeting ever-increasing demands for more services and better performance. However, one budget is running in the red and the other in the black. We'd encourage both to find ways to balance the bottom line in the best interest of tax payers.

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