We have become a society that wants to have our cake and eat it too. At all levels of government we refuse to come to terms with the reality of looming consequences entwined with our business as usual attitude. On the federal level, we just print more dollars (or borrow from the Chinese) to finance our grand Great Society schemes. In Juneau, we depend way too heavily on that federal coin and act as if the Pipeline will eventually, miraculously, fill to the brim, thereby allowing us to go on our merry way. At the local level, we vote to cut our taxes (sales), with no mind to effect on the only recipient of that revenue and blissfully assume funding will continue to incline it's way up the graph line annually. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your orientation, some of us are getting the drift; and it's not because we watch and listen to too much Fox News or talk radio.
I am no doomsayer, but I know that if the tracks are greased too well the machine will derail. A recent op-ed piece was correct in one sense: what the Assembly did with the School Funding Resolution was a paradigm shift. But it was wrong, dead wrong, in pronouncing that the majority acted "arbitrarily."
Are we really exercising some kind of tyrannical power over the district after so many years of playing the benevolent dictator? Sustainability has been a buzzword within the District for a number of years. That sustainability has and will continue to be a priority on the south side of the administration building that the KPB occupies. Last year, we spent close to $3 million in fund balance. This year, with the mayor's proposed budget we would be spending over another $6 million of that balance and the out years show a consistent $2-3 million dip in that account. Funny thing is, those out years are promulgated with a 20 percent mill rate increase and we are still projecting to be below Fund Balance Policy levels. Guess what those deficits are going to fund.
I know the explanation for District designated fund balances is a work in progress but the amount and very existence should not have come as a revelation. The fact of the matter is that we now have to be ever conscious of KPB fund levels if we are to sustain the District. Oh, I forgot something, there's a bond issue to be floated for major maintenance at several schools this fall to the tune of at least $10 million. In FY 08 Local share for education was $37 million plus. In a couple of years that number will be pushing $50 million under the mayor's proposed budget scenario. It is unproductive to claim we acted arbitrarily. To not respond to the aforementioned realities would be, well, acting like Congress.
We have no printing presses or pipeline to sustain us. We only have taxpayers and they must be taken into the equation. Likewise, taxpayers must come to terms with how we raise our revenue. Think, before you vote. Even though some would like to see the District and Borough dismantled, the vast majority of us do not. In this economy at this time, do you want your property taxes increased even more? With fund balances on both side of the building at current levels we temporarily have the ability to sustain ourselves but only if hard decisions about direction be made.
So please, don't go shootin' the messenger, just because you can't have your cake and eat it too.
Gary Superman represents District 3-Nikiski on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly.
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