Increases to the borough budget were vetoed by Mayor Charlie Pierce ahead of Tuesday night’s assembly meeting. Pierce is looking to trim more than $800,000 in funding for education and tourism marketing.
Mayor Pierce says he doesn’t have a problem with the level of funding the assembly voted to provide the school district.
“I disagree with where you’re getting it from. You’re adding a bigger problem to the problem we already have. And this is, you’re adding a bigger spread between what we’re currently spending and what we have in the way of revenue. And we’ve heard the comments tonight, we don’t have an emergency. There’s no urgency here. We can always do an appropriation. We can use land trust money to provide some funding for schools, but again, it takes five votes.”
And those five votes simply don’t exist on the assembly to approve tapping into the borough’s land trust fund. It’s been voted down now three times. Instead, everyone’s fingers are crossed that voters will approve some sort of tax in the fall. Most likely, that question will be about a sales tax increase. A citizen initiative is underway now to get that on the ballot for the fall. At stake is roughly $650,000 in funding for the school district.
The other veto is for funding for an organization Pierce has targeted for cuts since his days as an assembly member. The Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council was set to receive $300,000 from the borough, but Pierce cut that by two-thirds, bringing it in line with other economic development funding. The Small Business Development Center and the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District each got about $100,000 this year. In reviewing those appropriations, Pierce says he had good conversations with those groups, and he agreed with their plans on how to use that money. KPTMC, he says, was different.
“I’m unwilling to move at this point. We made efforts to put this budget together. We had a number of meetings and it was clear to us that the party was not interested in hearing the administrations opinions.”
Pierce says that group isn’t taking enough advantage of social media, like Facebook, to get a good return on the borough’s investment. His administration believes that group could be making more money off Facebook, and that targeting potential visitors online rather than with more traditional marketing materials could be more effective, but KPTMC, under its current agreement with the borough, is under no obligation to dramatically alter its outreach strategies. The mayor would like to see that changed in future contracts.
“There were a number of attempts, even back when I was on the assembly for six years, to challenge these agencies to demonstrate some clear and precise performance measures. Bring something to us in the way the grants administrator could go in and audit and do an evalution. We could have written the contract differently, and we will next year, and perhaps we’ll have a different experience next year.”
To override the mayor’s vetoes, the assembly will need to muster a super majority of six votes. That vote will take place during a special meeting on July 6th.