Process starts for borough budget approval

Posted: Sunday, May 04, 2003

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly begins formal consideration of a proposed $55.6 million fiscal year 2004 budget Tuesday.

Budget Ordinance 2003-19 will be introduced in Seward, where the assembly will meet for its once-a-year visit to the east peninsula city.

The budget is expected to include just over $31.1 million for school operations, representing the borough's local contribution under Alaska law. It also includes almost $12.9 million for general government operations.

Those figures represent slight increases over those approved for the current fiscal year, when school operations got $30.7 million and general government operations got about $12.1 million.

Other expenditures proposed for the 2004 budget, which begins July 1, include $3.72 million for solid waste handling and another $855,385 for solid waste debt service, as well as $4 million for school debt service.

The $31.1 million proposed for running borough schools includes the $24.7 million the borough contributes in cash, plus just over $5 million in maintenance, $1.2 million for insurance and assorted smaller figures covering utilities, custodial services and a school district audit.

The local share is 1.2 percent, or $379,863, higher than in fiscal year 2003, even though the projected school district enrollment is decreasing, Finance Director Jeff Sinz said in a memo to the assembly.

"(That's) because of increases in the borough's taxable assessed property valuations," he said. "In this particular case, the increase in taxable valuations is sufficient to cause a noticeable shift in the financial responsibility for education from the state to the local government."

By law, the borough is required to determine its share of school funding within 30 days of receiving the proposed school budget document from the district. The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District presented its $89.3 million budget April 24.

Another section of Ordinance 2003-19 covers proposed appropriations to the borough's eight emergency, road and recreation service areas and assorted other funds, including $2.25 million to Central Peninsula General Hospital and $1 million to South Peninsula Hospital.

The ordinance also earmarks money for various capital projects, including $2 million in schools, $625,000 in solid waste, $444,000 in Central Emergency Services, $1.4 million at Central Peninsula General Hospital and $992,376 at South Peninsula Hospital.

Mayor Dale Bagley was in Juneau on Thursday, but his aide, Ed Oberts, said little was changed from the current budget. He said personnel costs were held about constant, affected only by regular wage increases and health insurance costs that are rising.

"Health insurance hit us pretty hard, but we were able to absorb those," Oberts said.

Assembly President Pete Sprague said he expected a hold-the-line budget from the administration, and while he hasn't seen the detailed line-item document yet, the bottom-line figures in the ordinance itself appeared to be within anticipated ranges.

"We do have budget work sessions scheduled on May 20 and June 2. We will go over the particulars and have presentations from departments," he said. "And, of course, everything is subject to assembly amendment and approval before we vote on the final budget document."

Sprague said he does not expect and saw no reason for any change in the property tax mill rate.

The budget ordinance is scheduled for public hearings during the meetings of May 20 and June 6 in Soldotna. Passage is expected at the June 6 meeting.

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