Mayor to answer criticism

Williams plans response to ACT; assembly to address schools funds

Posted: Monday, April 03, 2006

Mayor John Williams said that he’s prepared to present a formal rebuttal Tuesday night to the criticisms leveled at his administration three weeks ago by members of the Alliance of Concerned Taxpayers.

At the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting March 14, ACT members chastised the administration for what they said were omissions in the mayor’s 60-day transition report delivered in January. That report on the fiscal state of the borough was developed from assessments prepared by a 17-member transition team appointed by the mayor upon taking office late last fall.

The taxpayers’ group charged the administration’s 60-Day Report was “biased in favor of higher taxes” as the way solve the borough’s looming fiscal crunch, and called on the administration to avoid raising taxes and to take steps they recommended to cut the costs of borough government.

Williams responded in a general manner in a lengthy interview last month, the results of which appeared in the Sunday, March 26, issue of the Peninsula Clarion.

While acknowledging as he has since taking office that the borough is facing very serious financial problems, Williams said in essence that ACT’s assessments of those problems and how to fix them were based on inaccuracies and wrong assumptions and demonstrated on their part “a poor understanding of how municipal governments work.”

He promised he would prepare and deliver a formal rebuttal at the Tuesday assembly meeting. The information will include a Power Point presentation and be accompanied by proposed resolutions and ordinances meant to cut costs and raise revenues.

Even before winning the fall election, Williams warned that meeting the challenges of increasing costs — especially unavoidable ones like rising health insurance and retirement obligations — would require sacrifice on the part of the government and borough taxpayers.

He has leveled sharp criticism of ACT for promoting — successfully, it turned out — ballot Propositions 4 and 5 last fall that limited the assembly’s ability to spend capital funds and rolled back a 1 percent sales tax increase approved by the assembly last year.

ACT members have taken pride in the success of the tax-cut measure and have warned the administration they would continue to work to force spending cuts at the ballot box if the administration can’t or won’t.

Tuesday’s meeting has the potential to be lively.

In other business on the agenda, the assembly is expected to hold public hearings and then vote on measures that would:

· Amend the borough code to authorize certain volunteers to serve on their respective service area board;

· Revamp how the borough regulates material site permits. The hearing is the first of two so far scheduled. The assembly is not expected to take formal action beyond taking testimony.

· Adopt the National Incident Management System (NIMS).

· Authorize ease of an outdoor shooting range on the Seward Solid Waste Facility grounds to the city of Seward for $1 a year.

The assembly also is expected to take up a measure setting the amount to be provided to the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District from local sources in fiscal year 2007. It would make available to schools approximately $35.5 million in cash and in-kind services, representing the local contribution to school operations.

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