Budget discussions lead up to June 8 decisions

Posted: Tuesday, May 18, 2010

At a budget work session inside the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly chambers on Monday, assembly member Bill Smith had a pointed exchange with Robert Craig, the Anchor Point service area's administrator.

Smith, Homer's borough assembly representative, wanted to make sure that the Anchor Point Fire and Emergency Service Area was using allotted money for the intended purpose.

In February, the assembly approved giving $30,000 to the service area so that it could repair emergency equipment and pay for physical examinations for the area's volunteer emergency personnel.

Smith was concerned that the service area was not making the most of those funds because Craig said only $5,000 has been spent and the medical exams have not yet happened.

"It's been several months. It seems like that would be a pretty simple thing to get scheduled," Smith said.

"I'm not sure how to answer that question," Craig responded.

"Did you get anything from the money you spent? I think that's an appropriate question," Smith said later.

Those are the kinds of budgetary questions that can come out of work sessions like the one held Monday. While they are mostly dry informational talks, the work sessions provide early insights into possible sticking points as the borough assembly moves forward in the budget approval process.

Monday's work session was the second of three on the borough budget, which will be published and distributed by June 26.

For the most part, the assembly members spent Monday listening as Finance Director Craig Chapman and other department heads and service area leaders laid out the details of the proposed fiscal year 2011 budget.

But the assembly did have a few questions that could evolve into full-scale debates once budget decisions need to be finalized.

Some concerns that the assembly expressed on Monday were mail cost reductions not being accurately reflected, fund balances being lowered and the status of jobs within certain departments.

Still, "Nothing will really happen until June 8." Assembly President Pete Sprague said.

On June 8, the assembly will hold a public hearing on the budget and finalize the service area and general government budgets.

The proposed FY 2011 budget, submitted by Borough Mayor Dave Carey, aims to: stick to fiscal conservatism; maintain basic services within the borough; provide the highest educational funding that the borough can afford; and stabilize the borough's financial condition, according to the mayor.

The full text of the 359-page proposed FY2011 budget is available under the Finance tab on the borough's website. The next work session is scheduled for June 7.

Andrew Waite can be reached at andrew.waite@peninsulaclarion.com

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