Mayor Dale Bagley painted a rosy picture of the Kenai Peninsula Borough in an address to the Kenai Chamber of Commerce during its weekly luncheon Wednesday at the Old Town Village Restaurant.
Bagley said he would ask for a general fund property tax reduction of half-mill for fiscal year 2002, which begins July 1, and other service areas could see a slight reduction as well.
He also said road maintenance dollars will almost double, more than a half-million dollars will be spent on reforestation, and junk vehicles will be towed away and crushed.
"Things are going great," he said. "The budget is still very early in the process, but it's going good. And I'll be asking the assembly for a half-mill general fund reduction."
He said various other service areas may also see slight reductions, but he did not detail them.
There will be one slight increase -- $2 on a $100,000 home -- in the Nikiski senior service area, he said.
The way property taxes are collected will change as well. Currently, half the payment is due on Aug. 15 and the other half on Nov. 15. Bagley said there are a lot of delinquencies with the current system, as people wait for their permanent fund checks to arrive. To alleviate that, and avoid the 12 percent penalty, the due date will be changed so half will be due on Sept. 15 and the other half on Nov. 15, or, a taxpayer could pay it all on Oct. 15.
He also characterized the penalty and interest on delinquent payments as "exorbitant by anybody's definition." They are both 12 percent. He said he is pushing for a 5 percent penalty.
He said the borough will spend $8.5 million in the next three years to mitigate the spruce bark beetle problem and clear trees within the borough's 60-foot right of way along roads. He said the clearing project will also be open to private landowners.
Along those lines, 10 percent of monies the borough receives from the federal government will go to the Cook Inlet Tribal Council for reforestation on Native and federal land. It could amount to $650,000, Bagley said.
"And it won't just be for plant-ing spruce, we'll plant birch as well," he said.
Money allotted to borough road maintenance this fiscal year was $500,000, Bagley said, but in the new fiscal year it will be $900,000. The increase is due to more revenue from the 1.2-mill road service area increase.
"Some people think I'm crazy for doing this," Bagley said. "But if you live on a road out in the borough and it's not being fixed like it should, let me know."
Abandoned vehicles lining borough right of ways will be fixed too -- permanently. In conjunction with the city of Kenai, a car-crusher from the Mat-Su area will be coming sometime this summer to do what it does best, crush cars.
"We need 150 vehicles to crush for them to come down," Bagley said. "And I haven't talked to anyone who thinks that will be a problem."
People who have derelict vehicles can have them crushed, but they must have them towed to one of four sites, in Kenai, Soldotna, Homer and Seward. Bagley said it costs up to $200 to clean all the contaminants out of a car before it's crushed, but the borough will foot that bill for up to five privately owned vehicles per person.
Bagley also mentioned the private prison issue that is currently before the borough. He conceded that there are many people who are against a private prison here, but not against a prison in general.
"Only one person has called me opposing the prison. That's it. And I know a lot of assembly members have not had many calls either," he said. "And let's not forget, it means 300 jobs in our community."
He also said he has not heard any talk of extending this summer's Kenai Spur Highway repaving project past the industrial area in Nikiski.
The North Road has experienced severe deterioration this spring, and many residents are seeking quicker relief.
"That work is scheduled for next year," he said.
Next week's chamber meeting will feature Kelly Wolf talking about the Youth Restoration Corps.
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