Public testimony about the proposed fiscal year 2001 budget will take center stage at tonight's meeting of the Soldotna City Council.
Finance director Joel Wilkins said the new budget is very similar to the current one. She said only one major change is in the offing.
The difference is the new budget will create a new Parks and Recreation Department for the city.
"We're getting so many parks, we need to handle them more efficiently and professionally," Wilkins said. "We have 11 parks and that's not counting (the upcoming) Karen Street (park)."
Parks and Recreation also will oversee the Soldotna Sports Center and the city's involvement with Soldotna Community Schools.
The new department will consolidate expenses previously covered from a lot of different departments. One new position will be created.
"We anticipate changing the duties of two existing positions and hiring one new maintenance man-type position," Wilkins said.
Wilkins said the new budget also includes a few capital projects -- finishing Parker Park next to the Soldotna Senior Center, finishing renovations of the city hall basement and continuing work on the Karen Street Park and East Redoubt paving.
Overall, though, the amount of money handled in the 2001 budget is not very different from the 2000 budget.
"It'll come in less than $100,000, one way or the other, over this year," Wilkins said.
As for revenue, she said, the city will not be out a large sum of money from what the state previously contributed to the city.
"Our sales tax seems to keep up with the loss in state revenue sharing," she said. "There's no plans or intentions to increase any water or sewer fees."
The new budget also proposes the first pay raise for city employees since 1997, Wilkins said.
"There's a 2 percent across-the-board pay increase," she said.
Wilkins added that the city will decrease retirement contributions by 1.8 percent, almost completely negating the cost of the pay increase.
The budget, which right now is just a draft, will be up for public comment at the council's 7:30 p.m. meeting, when the draft is expected to be finalized.
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