Assembly decisions are good choices

What others say

Posted: Sunday, June 12, 2005

Despite all the grief Kenai Peninsula residents give our borough assembly, it can't be easy to toe the line with so much pressure looming overhead these days.

It's been all over the headlines in recent years how budgets are shrinking, assistance is waning and cuts are inevitable. Still, the borough has adopted its budget for next year and voted unanimously to keep the property tax at its current level — 6.5 mills.

However, the budget wasn't free of cuts. The $60,195,214 total budget proposed by the administration fell by an additional $44,580. In addition, the assembly took off nearly $300,000 from what was originally proposed for general government operations.

Solid waste handling funds were cut, as was funding for the Kenai River Center, the Nikiski Fire Service Area, Central Emergency Service Area and the Kenai Peninsula Borough Road Service Area. The Central Area Rural Transit System, or CARTS, felt the ax, too.

Yet with rising costs to accomplish day-to-day tasks — such as driving or heating a building — there had to be money added to continue functioning.

We also have to give the assembly credit for trying to find new revenue sources.

The proposed ordinance to institute a boroughwide bed tax has gone through a lot of public scrutiny, but the assembly has done the right thing by giving voters the right to decide its outcome.

In fact, after further discussion at an extended borough assembly meeting Thursday, members' votes reinforced their decision, going from a 5-4 count to 6-3.

The bed tax would authorize the assembly to impose a tax of up to 4 percent on accommodations provided by hotels, motels and bed-and-breakfast operations. Originally it was 8 percent, but after a vocal public hearing in April, the assembly cut it in half.

There were more hearings. There also were offered solutions, including one by Homer hotelier Mike Warburton to make it a more broad-based tax to include more than hotels, motels and bed-and-breakfast operations so it would be felt less by so few.

The ideas are there, the problem is getting the solution on the table and before the voters now, while the problem exists. Assembly member Ron Long of Seward said it best that waiting for details to be hammered out takes time — time that is costing the borough money. Another year is a lot of expense. A lot of expense means more cuts.

It's time to put something forth to halt the fall of the ax before we sever something we may regret.

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