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Borough budget to be discussed

Posted: Tuesday, June 02, 2009

After two months of hearing testimony from school district employees, non-departmental agencies and the general public at packed Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meetings -- the meeting of all meetings is here.

Tonight the assembly will set the budget and levy amount for fiscal year 2010.

In May, Borough Mayor Dave Carey proposed reducing the borough mill rate from 4.5 down to 4.0 mills.

"I am reducing the amount the borough government is taking from residents and all taxpayers," Carey told the Clarion on May 7. "Hopefully this will create a better business climate."

The estimated loss of revenue is approximately $1.37 million to the borough's general fund. Boroughwide property taxes, too, will take a hit. Property taxes are expected to decrease by almost $800,000.

With all of the decreases, Carey said the borough will be forced to dip into its fund balance.

"I'm looking at the fund balance for the unused, available funds," Carey said in an early April interview.

After the assembly added nearly $3 million to Carey's proposed sum for the school district at its May 5 meeting, that money will come from the fund balance, Carey said. The borough's fund balance currently contains $17.7 million.

The mayor is also proposing a reduction in funds typically allocated to non-departmental agencies.

He proposed eliminating all funding for Central Area Rural Transit System. CARTS requested $50,000 from the borough this year, which accounts for about six percent of its total budget.

Should Carey's budget pass unchanged, the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District will receive half of its $50,000 request. The funds asked for by KPEDD makes up 20 percent of its total budget.

The Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council requested nearly $300,000 from the borough. Mayor Carey proposed giving KPTMC $150,000.

KPTMC generates 52 percent of its own budget, relying on borough funds for the rest.

Carey proposed funding the Small Business Development Center at $55,000. SBDC requested $109,000.

All of Carey's proposed budget amounts are just that -- proposals.

The assembly must approve the budget. The assembly also has the power to change dollar amounts, said Assembly Vice President Pete Sprague.

Carey also is proposing a .2-mill reduction in the Central Peninsula Hospital Service Area, .9 down to .7 mills, as well as reducing the Anchor Point Fire and Emergency Services mill rate from 1.75 to 1.60.

In late March, Carey met with Central Peninsula Hospital Service Area Board President Neal DuPerron to discuss lowering the mill rate.

Should the assembly approve the decrease, it's estimated to save taxpayers approximately $800,000.

If the rate is reduced, the service area would still have between $1.4 million and $1.5 million in its fund balance, remaining above the minimum requirement of $1.3 million.

The assembly must set the levy prior to June 15, according to state statute. Before the levy can be set, however, the budget must be adopted to comply with borough code, said Borough Attorney Colette Thompson.

She said adopting the budget first allows the assembly to know how much money they're planning on spending to give them a better idea of what the levy should be.

The meeting, which begins at 7 p.m., will be held in the assembly chambers in the borough building in Soldotna.

Mike Nesper can be reached at mike.nesper@peninsulaclarion.com.



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