Kenai budget passes

Posted: Friday, June 09, 2000

The Kenai City Council unanimously adopted a budget Wednes-day night for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

At $8,038,960, the city's general fund spending is up 2.4 percent, or $189,000.

"The reason for that is we included two new items this year," said city finance director Larry Semmens.

One of those two new items arose from the city turning the harbor from an enterprise fund -- that is, one that supports itself from its own revenue -- to a special revenue fund, one that also depends on money from the general fund. That cost the city's general fund $71,000.

The other item is $63,000 in matching funds for a state grant of $149,000 to improve roads. Semmens said in years past, the city usually makes a separate appropriation of matching funds once the state grant arrives.

"We wanted to have a more accurate representation of where the budget was going," Semmens said. "We know we're going to match it. We're not going to turn down a state grant."

He said once those items, which total about $134,000, are subtracted, the general fund budget is $55,000, or 0.7 percent, more than the current fiscal year.

Semmens said that increase is due to a 1.5 percent cost of living raise in the salaries of city employees and an increase in health insurance.

There also have been areas of decrease in the budget, such as a reduction in payments to the Public Employees Retirement System and debt service.

The city's total budget, which includes 11 revenue and enterprise funds in addition to the general fund, is $12.4 million, which is up about 2 percent, or $250,000.

Most of that is attributable to an accounting method the city uses that counts the $206,888 in the Debt Service Fund twice. Semmens said it's counted once as its own fund and again in the general fund budget. He said it is a quirk of municipal accounting practices not commonly used in business.

The council also fixed the property tax levy for the new fiscal year at 3.5 mills, the same as it has been for several years.

Council member Jim Bookey praised the city administration for keeping the mill rate level for so long.

The council also voted 5-2 to give city clerk Carol Freas and city attorney Cary Graves a 1.5 percent cost of living raise. At its last meeting, the council voted 5-2 to give all other employees the same raise. On both occasions, council members Jim Bookey and Duane Bannock voted against the increases.

In other council news:

n $5,000 was appropriated for purchase of new light poles and fixtures;

n $14,167 was transferred between airport accounts for purchase of new warning lights;

n Airport landing fees were doubled from 25 cents to 50 cents per thousand pounds for aircraft with a gross takeoff weight of 4,000 pounds or more. City Manager Rick Ross said the airport received $57,707 in landing fees in 1999. The new rates go into effect July 1;

n An ordinance prohibiting the keeping of livestock on certain lots within the city was introduced. The measure will be up for public hearing and possible adoption on June 21;

n A measure eliminating the Townsite Historic District Board was introduced. It also provides for transfer of some of its duties to the Planning and Zoning Commission. Another measure was introduced that would make the historic district board a commission. Both ordinances will have public hearings on June 21;

n Public works director Keith Kornelis reported that the sewer main on South Spruce Street is clogged, and city crews have been trying to clear it with vacuum trucks and other devices, but to no avail.

If efforts fail, Kornelis said, the city may have to excavate down to the sewer main and clear it by hand -- an expensive proposition.

The city manager said he wanted the council to know in advance and get its consent in case digging must be done, as it will put public works over budget.

"I don't think you will find any objection from us, because you won't find any of us climbing down that manhole," Bookey said.

n Kornelis also reported that the state Department of Transportation responded to the 18 modifications he suggested regarding the Kenai Spur Highway repaving project between miles 10.6 and 22. He said the department's response was mostly positive, though it rejected three suggestions.

They include enlarging the Main Street intersection, building a bicycle path from Forest Drive to Redoubt Avenue along the highway, and extending the four lane portion of the highway to Redoubt Avenue.

The DOT said all were too expensive and out of the scope of the project. Kornelis said DOT did agree to extend the four lanes another 150 feet.

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