Last week, Kenai Borough Mayor David Carey said he started investigating ways to provide the Kenai Borough Assembly with a balanced budget.
More specifically, Carey said he wanted to provide options for not dipping into the borough's fund balance to the tune of about $1.7 million, as outlined in the budget he proposed to the assembly for fiscal year 2012.
"I believe it is part of my job to provide the assembly with options," he said. "A couple of the assembly members did say they thought it should be a balanced budget. I think that is a valid request."
One of the several options Carey said he will present to the assembly before its Tuesday workshop to reach a balanced budget is cutting $657,791 in funding to the Kenai Peninsula College, which is currently included in the mayor's budget.
Carey originally proposed not funding all non-departmentals, which would have included the college. However, after hearing concerns about not funding KPC, Carey said he reinstated the funding when he proposed the budget to the assembly a few weeks ago.
Gary Turner, director of the Kenai Peninsula College, said Tuesday he was "very surprised" to hear the mayor was going to propose putting those funds back on the chopping block.
Carey took heat from the college community when he first proposed cutting the college's funding. In mid-February, Kenai River Campus students took to the streets in front of the borough building in Soldotna to protest the mayor's proposed funding cuts.
Turner said the $657,791 Carey will suggest the assembly cut represents 5 percent of the college's operating budget.
"Our leadership team at the college will have to take a long hard look at how we might manage without those funds," Turner said. "Of course there will be cuts and there will be programs that will no longer exist without this funding. But, it is premature for me to say what that might exactly be."
Carey said cutting the college's funding is one of several ideas for reduction of budget's dip into the fund balance. Other ideas include not filling a recently vacated capital projects director position -- an employee who was recently terminated by the mayor -- and cutting four positions and reducing other travel-associated costs.
"At a time that I am looking at a reduction in force of four borough employees, it seems difficult for me to say that we should be providing for employees in other areas that are not borough responsibilities," Carey said.
Carey was unsure of the time the assembly will host its budget workshop, but was skeptical the assembly would make the college funding cut.
"My guess is probably that the assembly will probably end up funding all the non-departmentals," he said. "It is very difficult to say, 'No' when they'll fill up the room saying, 'We want money.' The taxpayers, in general, don't show up. Just the people that want money."
Assembly President Gary Knopp said he expects some funding for non-departmentals, but is unsure just how much they would get.
"I think we just have to have the discussion to see what we can afford and what's appropriate to do," he said.
Not funding the college might be an unpopular request among assembly members, he said.
"I'm pretty sure there are a lot of assembly members who do not support that," he said. "They would rather support non-departmentals especially since we have a fairly large fund balance."
Brian Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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