Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre delivered his annual State of the Borough address Tuesday. There are a few issues the Mayor says he’s concerned with in the short term, but long-term prospects in the Borough look good.
First, an announcement:
“I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time thinking about the election, but I am going to start talking to people and saying ‘hey, I am running’. That way I don’t make the mistake this time of letting people assume that I might not run.”
Speaking to the Kenai and Soldotna Chambers of Commerce at the Soldotna Sports Center, Navarre said he would seek reelection this year. He also talked about several issues that are likely to have some impact on the Borough in the not-so-distant future. But overall…
“The Borough’s in good shape. We showed a surplus in our budget last year for the first time in five years. But, we’re seeing some impacts; for the exemption that was increased, that’s going to impact our budget going forward,” Navarre said.
He’s talking about an increase in property tax exemptions for seniors from $20,000 to $50,000. The Assembly voted down a measure to cap the total amount for exemptions to $300,000 last month, but the effects of those exemptions are being felt already.
“For the Borough’s general government, the direct impact of that, all things being equal, is a little over $1.3 million a year. Which means that surplus that we had last year pretty much just went away.”
As a result, the Central Emergency Service Area saw revenues drop by more than $400,000. Even though that service area saw a mill rate increase just a couple years ago, another one might be on the table to make up for those lost dollars.
Navarre didn’t support the increased property tax exemption, and he says he took some heat for that.
“We value our seniors, we should value our seniors, I value our seniors. But, the demographic that uses emergency services to the greatest extent is guess what…seniors.”
He said addressing these types of issues might be considered by some to be a political liability, but not addressing it would be worse for the Borough.
“(That) leads us to bankruptcy. It leads us to shifting it and making the cuts somewhere else instead of considering everything, whether it’s a political liability or not.”