Cuts not entirely painless

Some purchases delayed; planned programs deleted

Posted: Sunday, June 09, 2002

After the Kenai City Council directed the city's administration to cut the fiscal year 2002-2003 estimated budget deficit roughly in half over the coming year, the administration looked for areas to cut that would impact the general public the least.

The council passed an amendment to the budget in its May 15 meeting that directed the administration to reduce the estimated $335,000 budget deficit by $160,000 without negatively affecting life, health and safety issues. The administration also was charged with reducing the deficit in a way that would affect the public the least.

By the time the council passed the budget Wednesday, the administration had done just that.

The final Kenai city budget total for the 2002-2003 fiscal year is $8,483,481. This total includes the $6,000 in cuts the council made to the budget in its budget work sessions and the $160,000 the administration cut.

"We tired to find areas (to cut) that people would not feel an impact from," said Linda Snow, Kenai city manager. "We will feel impacts of these cuts and we will deal with whatever internal struggles will arise from them, but I think we have a cooperative council to work with in terms of these cuts. It will work out all right."

The administration made the following cuts to the 2002-2003 budget:

$54,000 from the dock facility. Usually the money to operate the dock facility is taken from the general fund every year. But the facility has its own budget reserve with enough money to operate on for the year. So the dock will continue to function this year, it will just do so on money from its reserve account, rather than the general fund balance.

$21,000 that was budgeted for three copier machines. Rather than buy the machines next year, the council voted at Wednesday's meeting to appropriate money for one copier from the general fund balance this year, so the money will come from this year's budget rather than next year's. The purchase of the other two copiers has been put off for a year.

$12,000 out of the city's contingency fund. This fund pays for unplanned expenses that come up during the year, like roofs that spring a leak and generators that go on the fritz. The fund still has $63,000, so emergency expenditures can still be covered next year. In the event the fund is used up, the administration can go to the council to appropriate money from the general fund to deal with any emergencies.

$5,000 out of the legislative budget that is slated for the council's lobbying expenses. In the past the money was typically unspent, Snow said.

$8,000 out of a professional services category, which is usually used to hire appraisers and similar professionals.

$10,000 from the Americans with Disabilities Act building fund. The money is only used if the city receives a complaint that one of its buildings needs to be made accessible. The city can appropriate money from the general fund for construction if necessary next year.

$3,000 for a cemetery survey that will be put off until the following year.

$32,000 for a new police vehicle. The council voted to appropriate the money for the vehicle in Wednesday's meeting, so the money for it comes out of this year's budget.

$15,000 in an experimental snow berm removal program. Next year would have been the first time the program was implemented on an experimental basis. Snow said the administration figured the public wouldn't miss the service since they had never received it before.

The administration will be raising fees for several of its services, like parking fees at the dock facility and some charges associated with the Kenai Recreation Center, over the year to generate additional revenue, Snow said. Even with the increased revenue and these cuts, there's no guarantee the budget will work out exactly as planned.

Even if situations arise in the coming year that disrupt the planned budget, Snow is confident the city is in good shape to handle them.

"The city's not in a bad financial position," Snow said. "Council members, mayors, city managers and finance directors in the past have done a really great job. ... I'm glad that we have a council that's willing to debate the difficult issues. When they saw the budget problem we presented they went right for it and tackled it."

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