The borough is at a major crossroads. The economy continues to change. Oil production continues to decline and additional large quantities of gas necessary to fuel our local industries are several years away. Our elected officials along with we citizens must redefine government and its role as a Second Class Borough. We must all ask ourselves what it is that is most important to the larger number of people.
There is a growing population on the peninsula and the services that they will require are going to cause us all to ask just how much government we can afford. In asking that question, we must also ask the hard question, “Where will the revenues come from to fund the operations not only of the government but of the educational system as well?”
In the coming election we will be asked whether or not we want to eliminate the recent sales tax increase and whether or not we want to require a 60-percent majority to implement any changes in sales tax rates in the future. A “yes” vote will subtract in the neighborhood of 6 million dollars from the present budget. Because the budget is in place, severe cuts will have to be made, essential services curtailed, hiring freezes will have to be implemented, a reduction in work force will have to take place and funds from a dwindling reserve will have to be used. This can all be done, this year.
Next year is a different story. Without large property tax increases, the reserve account will be empty and the borough will face a multimillion dollar deficit, which is against the law. To compound the problem, the Public Employees Retirement System and the Teachers Retirement System will add an additional estimated $750,000 to the required budget over and above the increases this past year. Heating bills for all borough buildings and schools are already predicted to be much higher and other costs will rise.
Any emergency such as major damage to a borough facility or school or any other disaster will have a chilling effect on the peninsula We must all ask ourselves, how much of a chance can we take and how much we are willing to sacrifice.
I ask that all citizens take the time to study the question closely and make an informed decision before casting their vote on October 4. Your candidates are bound by law to implement whatever strategy you the voters chose to invoke. The future can be bright and we will work through all these problems.
It will take time. The problems we face have been building for several years and cannot be solved in the next 12 months, but they can be solved. Please make informed decisions about the questions before us and about the future of the Kenai Peninsula Borough, and above all, express your decision by going to the polls and voting on Oct. 4.
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