Borough cuts should come hard and fast


Posted: Friday, October 14, 2005

It appears as if the Kenai Peninsula Borough is in for some major belt-tightening.

According to the borough’s finance director, the borough is facing a shortfall of $7.9 million by the 2007 fiscal year, which is just eight months away.

Already facing this budget crunch, the assembly over the past year has said “nothing is off limits,” as far as raising revenues or cutting budget items. Along those lines, they decided to raise the sales tax by 1 percent, a move that was recently nixed by the voters.

Kenai Peninsula residents have spoken, and now it’s time for the borough assembly to listen; the budget-cutting axe should fall hard and fast.

Much of the rhetoric put forward by the anti-tax camp focused on government waste, with members of the Alliance for Concerned Taxpayers saying their government needs to get leaner and meaner. They convinced a majority of the voters that this course of action should be followed. Now the assembly must carry out the will of the people.

That means it’s time to stop funding schools to the maximum amount allowed by law. Although not a popular option, school money makes up the majority of the borough’s budget and is the first and most obvious place to look when cuts need to be made.

There are four public high schools in the central peninsula area alone. Less than 20 years ago, there were only two. The area’s population has not grown that much in the past two decades, and certainly there’s room at Kenai Central and Soldotna High School to accommodate students from Nikiski and Skyview.

After schools comes roads. Certainly the borough can cut back on the amount of maintenance it does to its roads, especially during the winter, when borough crews spend thousands of taxpayer dollars a day sanding and clearing streets that don’t need it. Instead of plowing every time it snows, the borough could easily get away with only plowing once a week or so.

Needless capital projects should be done away with. The finance director pointed out that the borough is in the process of purchasing expensive new sales tax software. This expenditure easily could be done away with, as we all know how unimportant it is to upgrade technological items in this day and age.

In fact, why not do away with the need for tax software altogether? Why doesn’t the assembly just do away with sales taxes? Such a move would eliminate the need for tax software, as well as costly administrative positions needed to collect revenues.

Why even bother with a borough government to begin with? Maybe it’s high time that these onerous sales and property taxes simply be done away with, and the private sector can take over. Surely there’s a local business or two who would be happy to pick up the tab for running Kenai Central High School — at least its football program.

The idea of the tax-and-spend liberal has become so prevalent in our society that it’s created a backlash against any kind of taxes at all. Unfortunately for those among us who are tired of paying taxes, our system of government is based upon the idea that all people should pitch in and pay to support public functions. When there isn’t enough money to support the existing level of government services, the only option available is to cut those services used by all of us.

Good schools, sound roads and effective administrative services cost money — mediocre schools, bad roads and nonexistent administration cost less. The voters have spoken; it’s time to start cutting. Just don’t be surprised if some of the cuts run deep.

Remember, you get what you pay for.

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