In the latest budget cycle, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly chose to lower the property tax mill rate. The half-mill cut was shifted, however, for residents of the unincorporated areas. Those taxpayers won't see a bottom-line reduction, but they will see more of their tax dollars going to roads, and that's important, said assembly District 4 candidate Pete Sprague, the unopposed incumbent in the race.
Can the mill rate be cut yet again next July?
"I think it is premature to decide if we can lower it again," he said. "We will address that each year during the budget cycle. But more money in the road program is a positive thing."
As for education funding, Sprague said the borough has run up against the local-effort cap.
"We have to be really careful about how we address any plans of spending money outside the cap," he said. "What we need to do is encourage the Legislature to adjust the funding formula. The Kenai Peninsula Borough does have a diverse school district. We have centralized, urban schools as well as schools across the water that you have to fly to. We have schools on and off the road system. That makes it more expensive to pay for education."
The borough's other prime responsibility is waste management. Sprague said he fully supports the bond measure going to the voters Tuesday.
Sprague said another important issue is the out-of-date borough comprehensive plan. The assembly has appropriated $250,000 to revise and rewrite the plan, and the borough administration and the borough Planning Commission are working on it. But it is a lengthy job and needs public input, he said.
During that process, the borough should discuss zoning, he said. Sprague and former assembly member Bill Popp were the sponsors of the borough's Local Option Zoning ordinance. Sprague said that was a good first step.
"The discussion of zoning is one that has to be brought up during the revision of the comprehensive plan," he said.
Sprague said the borough has taken steps to promote business on the peninsula through funding of the borough Economic Development District and the Community and Economic Development Department.
"I believe they do explore ways to bring business in and find a suitable business climate," he said. "We did fund a feasibility study for the industrial park in Nikiski. One thing we do need to do is let businesses know that there is a favorable climate for business, as well as for the people who will move here to work at those businesses. A good quality of life on the peninsula is key."
He said tax incentives are worth discussing.
He also said a statewide sales tax would not be in the best interest of the borough. If presented with an either-or situation, he would argue for an income tax over a sales tax.
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