The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly unanimously adopted next year’s budget last night. Most of the work in terms of amending the proposed budget was taken care of over the previous two meetings, with much of the debate going into the funding of the so-called non-departmentals.
Typically, that funding has some opponents on the more conservative side of the assembly but in a twist, a call to remove $75,000 from the economic development column was voted down by a 7-2 count. Assembly member Willy Dunne proposed the cut because it wasn’t clear how that money would be used to contract out marketing and public relations services for the borough.
“I just don’t think we need to hire an outside firm to conduct a PR campaign, especially without any indication of a direct benefit to the people of the borough. I understand the concept behind it, but I would much rather see the funds in that department spent on existing entities that do have a proven track record (like) Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District, Small Business Development Center, Kenai Peninsula Tourism and Marketing Council," Dunne said.
The Pierce administration is supportive of the idea. Community and Fiscal Projects Manager Brenda Ahlberg says that community outreach within the borough is handled in-house right now, but it’s something that deserves full time attention and a formal communications plan.
“We’ve come to realize we do need a plan. We do need guidance that’s holistically capturing everything that we do internally, everything that we could be doing externally to our audiences, whether it’s our residents, those in private industry, non-profit industry, tribal entities, whatever it may be, so that we have a better representation that hopefully will also encourage economic development. But it should start with an understanding of what we are as a municipal entity to our residents.”
Another last minute change to the budget gave an extra $50,000 to the borough finance department so it can track sales tax for temporary lodging in the borough, like Air BnBs.
The fiscal year 2020 budget comes in just short of $85.5 million total in the general fund. Of that, more than $51 million will go to fund the school district, representing the full funding the district asked for. General operations total a little more than $17 million for next year. Assembly member Dale Bagley thanked the administration for the work it’s put in over the past six months.
“It’s the most important thing we do as an assembly and in fact at the local level, can impact your pocket book and your freedoms more than at the state government and the federal level. The budget is the most important reflection of what we do as a community and I just want to thank the finance department and administration for all the work they’ve done. I know it starts in December every year and it’s a lot of work and I appreciate the work everyone’s done to get to this point.”
The last bit of work the assembly had to do on next year’s finances was set the borough-wide mill rate for property taxes. It will go up slightly, from 4.7 to 4.8 mills while the road service area rate will go down in kind, from 1.4 to 1.3 mills.