PERS, firearms on ‘to do’ list

Kenai council may begin to chip away at public employees’ retirement debt

Posted: Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Now that the state has kicked in $235,000 for the Kenai public employees’ retirement account, the city council will be asked to consider altering its budget, which is slated for final approval this evening.

The city’s proposed 2007 budget included a payment of $289,000 to the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS), but with the new state money, City Manager Rick Koch is asking the council to up the payment to $524,000.

The city’s current unfunded liability to PERS is about $11.5 million.

In a memo to Koch, city Finance Director Larry Semmens said the city could use the state money to offset the 18.67 percent PERS rate in the budget, or the city could choose “to pay the actuarially required rate of about 30 percent.”

The city’s liability grows at an annual interest rate of 8.25 percent, according to Koch.

Some angst has been expressed that if the state offers municipalities some level of PERS relief, those increased contributions might not be acknowledged.

On Monday, however, Koch said some 21 municipalities have already taken steps to pay down their unfunded liabilities, and if all 21 band together, the state would need to recognize those efforts.

Semmens’ memo said if the city does not pay the required rate, “future generations will be paying for services that were rendered in years past.”

The city council will also be asked tonight to amend the proposed budget to include general fund revenue of $340,760.

That is the amount of a grant from the state Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development the city is receiving to defray increased energy and other costs.

Also on the council’s agenda this evening is an amendment to the city’s firearms ordinance map to bring hunting areas within city limits in sync with permitted state shooting areas within the Kenai River Special Management Area.

At issue are areas along Bridge Access Road where it crosses the Kenai River and a panhandle section of riverbank land east of the Warren Ames Bridge.

The current city hunting map shows shotgun shooting as allowed along the banks of the river, which the state does not allow.

The city map includes a disclaimer that tells hunters state and federal hunting regulations must be adhered to, according to city planner Marilyn Kebschull. The map has caused some confusion in the past.

The new map, if approved, includes phone numbers for the Kenai Police Department and the Alaska State Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation.

The council meeting will begin at 7 p.m.

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