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What can we do without?

Posted: Friday, April 01, 2011

It's time to ask not what your borough can do for you, but what you can do for your borough.

Or, even more to the point, what you can do without.

The borough is in the thick of its budgeting process, and, with an eye toward cutting costs and financing a major capital project, Borough Mayor Dave Carey has proposed that the borough not fund non-departmental agencies -- nonprofit organizations which derive a part of their funding from the borough.

One of the largest non-departmental funding requests comes from the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council, which has asked for $300,000 from the borough, 56 percent of the KPTMC budget.

Quite frankly, the time has come for the agency to reduce its reliance on the borough for funding. The KPTMC should follow the lead of other non-departmental agencies, and look for other sources to fill out its budget.

The marketing council has justified its existence by pointing to the revenue raised through tourism, some $4.8 million in sales tax revenue in 2010, according to KPTMC Executive Director Shanon Hamrick.

No doubt, tourism plays a huge role in the economy of the borough. But there's a huge assumption in that justification, that tourists would not visit the Kenai Peninsula if not for the efforts of the KPTMC. KPTMC marketing efforts most likely do attract some visitors, but all of them? That's a stretch.

Marketing or not, there is attrition in the borough economy. While tourism is hoping for a rebound, the industry has been down -- a reflection of national economic factors beyond the reach of any Peninsula agency. Carey already has asked all borough departments to tighten their belts, and it is reasonable to expect non-departmental agencies to do the same.

We're all looking for ways to stretch our dollar. Borough government and the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District are finding ways to more efficiently utilize their funds, and do more with less.

We'd all like to have more money and resources available to us, but what we want and what we need are often two different things. When times are tight, it's important to know the difference.

Just like every other household, business, charity organization and government entity across the borough, the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council needs to take a look at how it spends its money. Doing things simply because it's the way we've always done them is no longer enough of a reason. Which items are absolutely necessary? Which marketing ventures return the most bang for the buck? Are there other sources of funding for which KPTMC, as a non-profit agency, is eligible?

And, what programs can we do without?

These are hard questions to ask, but the answers are necessary for the mayor and the assembly to make informed decisions regarding taxpayer dollars.

And if a reduction in funding to KPTMC leads to a decline in visitors, we'll have some tangible evidence of the agency's value with which we can determine a reasonable level of funding in the future.

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