Roads budget gets temporary patch

Posted: Monday, March 06, 2000

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly appropriated $400,000 from the borough Road Service Area fund last week to boost a budget battered by heavy snowfall.

Early last month, borough roads director Bill Dunn said the service area -- which maintains 630 miles of roads outside the incorporated cities -- already had exceeded its $630,000 winter plowing budget by $45,000.

There often is heavy snow in March, he said, and the borough spends an average of $50,000 to $60,000 each time it plows the road system. This spring, the service area also will need roughly $100,000 to scrape packed snow from thawing roads and push the berms back and clear ditches so melt water can drain.

How much money it needs after that depends on how many sink holes and soft spots borough roads develop during breakup. Last year, the borough spent $50,000 for breakup repairs, Dunn said.

Kasilof assembly member Paul Fischer proposed transferring $400,000 in federal payments in lieu of property taxes, known as PILT, to the service area maintenance fund.

PILT is money the U.S. government pays the borough in lieu of the taxes it foregoes from tax-exempt property. In general, the borough can spend general fund money only for services that benefit all borough residents. The PILT money, an estimated $1 million this year, is part of roughly $1.8 million in general fund revenues not bound by that restriction.

When Fischer's proposal came up last week, assembly president Bill Popp of Kenai said he was uncomfortable transferring PILT money to the Road Service Area, since that could bring requests for similar funding from other service areas.

He proposed appropriating $400,000 instead from the Road Service Area's dwindling savings. The assembly approved that idea unanimously. Fischer and Sterling assembly member Grace Merkes were absent.

To solve the Road Service Area's long-term budget problems, Mayor Dale Bagley has proposed raising the Road Service Area property tax by a half mill and cutting the general fund property tax by the same amount. That proposal has not yet come before the assembly.

In other business, the assembly:

n Passed an ordinance revising borough road standards.

n Appropriated $31,400 in interest from a grant for design and construction of the Kenai River Visitors Center in Soldotna to the Kenai River Center capital projects account.

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