Borough faces effects of election

Fire station projects appear safe from limitations of Proposition 4

Posted: Thursday, October 06, 2005

Borough attorneys and finance officials wrestled Wednesday morning with what appeared to be a conflict arising from the apparent success of two propositions on Tuesday's municipal ballot.

Just over 59 percent of voters within the Central Emergency Service Area approved Proposition 2, authorizing the sale of up to $2.5 million in bonds and construction of a new fire station in Kasilof, as well as remodeling of another station in Funny River.

However, boroughwide, voters also appear to have approved Proposition 4, which caps the amount the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly may appropriate toward a particular capital project at $1 million. Exceeding that amount would require going out to a public vote and 60 percent of those voters would have to say yes before a project could proceed. Furthermore, Proposition 4 was retroactive to April 15.

Early Wednesday, it was not clear whether Proposition 2 was independent of Proposition 4's effects. Based on a clause in Initiative Ordinance 2005-01 (the basis of Prop 4), it now appears approval of the CES bond package and the fire station construction projects are on solid ground and that those projects may go forward, according to borough Attorney Colette Thompson and Finance Director Scott Holt.

Vote tallies on Proposition 4 on Tuesday night showed a slight majority favoring reduction of the current $1.5 million spending cap. But the difference between the yeas and nays was so close, just 96 votes, that the outcome won't be known until absentee and questioned ballots are counted.

Prop 2 was approved by 59.1 percent of voters, raising the question of whether a successful Prop 4 would negate voter approval of Prop 2, because Prop 2 fell just short of the 60 percent approval threshold.

Borough Clerk Sherry Biggs deferred to the borough legal department regarding the impact of Prop 4 on Prop 2.

Reached late Wednesday morning, Thompson initially thought the retroactive nature of Prop 4 would indeed impact the fire station projects. But shortly thereafter, Thompson found the clause in the Initiative Ordinance 2005-01 that she and Holt said protected Prop 2 from Prop 4 behind a solid legal wall.

According to the ordinance, a vote would be required for projects exceeding $1 million financed with borough funds "which are not the proceeds of a bond issue approved by voters."

A question yet to be answered is whether the borough could effectively skirt the limitations of Prop 4 on future assembly appropriations by seeking approval of bond issues and their connected projects at the polls, Holt said Wednesday.

At issue would be whether a bare majority, rather than a 60-percent supermajority, could approve a bond issue and a construction project exceeding $1 million at the same time.

"That's a very interesting question," Holt said.

Proposition 4's new limitation will have an impact on already approved projects, such as a road reconstruction job on Keystone Drive, Thompson said.

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