City budget having growth spurt

Retirement funding, utility costs driving up Soldotna’s expenses

Posted: Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Soldotna’s city budget for the next fiscal year is not quite set, but the city council is scheduled to get a look at it Wednesday and set public hearings for May 9 and May 23. It’s expected to rise.

“We have totals in a number of departments, but I haven’t pulled the total together yet,” City Manager Tom Boedeker said Monday. “It is an increased budget.”

Energy costs for utilities and the state-mandated contribution rate to the Public Employees Retirement System are two elements of the budget driving the increase, Boedeker said.

The city is expecting its gas bill to go up between $25,000 and $30,000 in the coming year, and Boedeker said he expects the PERS rate to be about 28 percent of the city’s payroll.

He said the city budget does not have much to cut out this year.

“Actually it’s already pretty tight in some areas,” Boedeker said.

The council also is slated to hear from Soldotna resident Bob Pope on speed limits in residential neighborhoods.

Last fall, Pope advised the council of speeding cars and motorists not stopping at stop signs in the area of Brentwood Street and Corral Avenue.

At that time, Police Chief John Lucking Jr. said his department is obligated to take action.

“There are some tools we have that we can employ to deal with it,” Lucking said.

Also on the agenda for Wednesday is a proposed resolution to remove the city’s police chief from participation in PERS.

Boedeker said Lucking became eligible for retirement under PERS a year ago, but has elected to remain employed. If he were to choose retirement, under PERS rules, he would be required to leave the PERS-covered position.

By removing the police chief position from PERS, Lucking could begin collecting a PERS pension and stay on the city payroll. The city would no longer be required to contribute to PERS for that position, and it could keep its police chief.

If the resolution is not passed, the chief could retire and go to work for someone other than the city, according to Boedeker.

For similar reasons, the city council removed the city manager position from PERS a month ago.

When asked whether any action is expected regarding the city’s freestanding sign ordinance that was vetoed by Mayor Dave Carey two weeks ago, Boedeker said he had not been informed of any override plans.

The council meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek@peninsulaclarion.com.



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