Report: Soldotna in 'nice condition'

Posted: Tuesday, February 03, 2004

The city of Soldotna is in the black.

The city recently released its comprehensive annual financial report for fiscal year 2003. At Wednesday's City Council meeting, an independent auditor gave the report a thumbs up, saying it's apparent the city is on firm financial footing.

"The city is in very nice financial condition," said Bill Coghill of Mikunda, Cottrell and Co.

Coghill gave the city's management high marks for preparing a solid statement that outlines exactly where the city stands financially, noting it again received a certificate of excellence from the Government Finance Officers Association. In looking at the report, he said it's obvious the city is doing well.

"That's what I see when I look at these figures, a healthy city," he told the council.

Among the interesting things Coghill found when auditing the report was that Soldotna's revenues increased by more than anticipated from 2002.

"One of the things that jumps out at me is the large increase in sales tax," he said.

The report states Soldotna saw its sales tax revenues jump by roughly $132,851, an increase of roughly 2.5 percent over 2002. That's more than the city anticipated when preparing its budget, but the report states the increase may have been largely due to the closure of the Kmart store in Kenai.

"(T)here were some unique factors influencing 2003 sales tax," the report states.

Property tax collections in the city also rose in 2003, from $459,587 in 2002 to 487,320 for 2003. That's despite the fact that the city's property tax rate has remained unchanged for the past decade.

Overall, the report shows a city that continues to grow at a strong pace. In fact, since 1993, the city has seen its general fund rise from just $1.2 million in 1993 to an all-time high of $7.3 million for 2003.

Coghill said those numbers mean that despite a downturn in the state's economy, Soldotna appears able to weather any foreseeable financial storm.

"It's is in a very good spot to be able to take some things," Coghill said.

That's a good thing, he said, especially since the state has cut the amount of money it shares with the municipality from more than $1 million in 1985 down to $95,459 for 2004 with none anticipated in fiscal year 2005.

Overall, the report shows the city had nearly $16.7 million in the bank, including the general fund total as well as eight others water and sewer; airport; parks and recreation; streets; debt service; capital projects; parks and recreation; and equipment.

The city also came in under budget for 2003, spending a total of $8.5 million on all city functions approximately $700,000 less than budgeted.

City council members said they were pleased with the report, especially considering the financial difficulties facing municipalities in other parts of Alaska.

"Maybe we, as a city, can lead as an example for other parts of the state," said council member Lisa Parker.

In other action, the council:

Approved the sale of a parcel of land at the corner of Marydale and Fireweed to Dr. Henry Krull for the price of $295,000. Krull spoke at the council meeting, saying he's outgrown his current orthopedic surgery practice and plans to build a new office at the site. City Manager Tom Boedeker said the city originally paid $245,000 for the lot.

Amended the city's zoning code at the site of the Christ Lutheran Church from commercial to institutional district.

Accepted a grant from the Alaska Highway Safety Office in the amount of $3,938 for the "Get Drunks Off the Road" project. The grant requires a city match in the amount of $1,700.

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