Kenai Mayor John Williams gave his annual state of the city address before the Kenai Chamber of Commerce luncheon crowd Wednesday, outlining the fiscal year 2002 budget which goes into effect July 1.
He also talked about the many capital projects the city has taken on.
As reported before, the city's entire budget for the next fiscal year will be $13.1 million, which is $692,947 more than the current fiscal year's budget of $12.4 million, a 5.58 percent increase.
The city's treasury will be drawn down by $98,157 to cover the difference, once additional revenue adjustments are made. The treasury, or general fund, balance will be $28.9 million after the appropriation.
The city, Williams said, is heavily dependent on sales and property taxes, which, combined, account for 39 percent of the city's income. Interest made on the treasury investments accounts for 14 percent of the income, while only 5 percent comes from state and federal sources.
"As you can see," Williams said, referring to the slide show that went along with his speech, "in 1985 the state gave us something over $1.6 million. Last year it was just slightly more than $200,000.
"I can't complain about falling state revenue sharing this year, because they actually gave us a slight increase."
The city's sales tax of 3 percent brings in $3.9 million, while the property tax of 3 mills accounts for $1.3 million a year.
"As you can see, the very life of our government depends on sales tax," Williams said.
The greatest outlay for the city is payroll, which accounts for 51 percent of the city's budget.
"The city of Kenai is a major factor in our economy," Williams said.
Public safety, the police and fire departments account for 42 percent of the city's outlay, accounting for $3.5 million in spending. Public works accounts for 22 percent, or $1.9 million, the same as what it costs to run city hall. The Parks and Recreation Department operates on $789,069, which is 9 percent of the budget. The library gets by on $462,219, or 5 percent of the budget.
"The only way the library functions at this level is because of volunteers," the mayor said. "So if you ever have some spare time you want to donate, give them a call."
Williams then showed slides of the many projects recently completed or under way in the city, including the ice rink, which he pointed out will have a refrigerated ice system installed this fall to guarantee good ice all winter.
"I don't believe we had 30 days of solid ice all winter there," he said.
He showed an artist's conception of the new fire and rescue building under construction at the airport next to the control tower, and then of the newly remodeled terminal building.
"This is the first vision 240,000 people a year get of our city," he said.
The mayor also mentioned the many water and sewer projects, including a fourth well house that is under way, as well as the new Public Health Clinic, which also will house Central Peninsula General Hospital personnel.
"We are increasing the medical services to this community at long last," he said. "The doors should open in July, and we'll have a grand opening sometime in September."
The mayor said he hopes the Challenger Learning Center will get a $2.5 million addition, which would house 36 students and four adults in separate bunk houses to provide for week-long summer camp space missions.
Another building on the city's horizon to house youth, but for very different reasons, is the Youth Detention Center, due to be designed this year, with construction starting next year on Marathon Road.
Bluff erosion control is a project Williams has referred to in the past as the most important thing the city can do.
"Atop the bluff live people, and at the bottom live worms," Williams said. "We have to try and convince agencies that the people are more important than worms."
During meetings on the bluff project, state Department of Fish and Game personnel have expressed concern over disturbing habitat for invertebrates living in the mud, which may be a source of food for young salmon.
"We are only talking about one mile here," Williams said. "And as for Millennium Square, we can't think about building a nice hotel and convention center there if the bluff erodes away."
The land between the senior center and Bridge Access Road is what the mayor has dubbed "Millennium Square."
He said an expert once told him the bluff will probably stop eroding at the Kenai Mall parking lot if left alone.
Williams also talked about the city building a skateboard park.
"I've had some members of the business community come to me and say they would donate to the project if it would get the skateboarders out of in front of their bank or hardware store," Williams said.
The last items on the mayor's agenda were Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities projects under way and in design. They include the ongoing work on Redoubt Avenue and Forest Drive, the work that started recently on the Kenai Spur Highway from downtown to past the refineries in Nikiski, the Unity Trail from Soldotna to Kenai along the Kenai Spur Highway, and the Bridge Access Road Trail completing the Unity Trail Loop.
"I urge you to sign the petitions you see on the tables if you agree with me that this trail needs to be completed to connect the Kenai Spur Highway with K-Beach Road trails," Williams said.
State agency representatives have expressed concern at public meetings that bicyclists along Bridge Access Road would cause more harm to wildlife there than the cars on the road do. There is concern among supporters that if there is not an outpouring of support for the pathway, the project will be killed.
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