Sabine Poux/KDLL

Go to most libraries in Alaska and you can ask for just about any book, movie or magazine. And 99 percent of the time, it’ll get to you, said Rachel Nash, librarian at the Soldotna Public Library.

“This system allows us to say yes every time," she said.

That system is the Alaska Library Catalog. Gov. Mike Dunleavy vetoed $635,900 in funding for the program and others as part of a slew of budget vetos earlier this month.

The Alaska House has voted to avert a state government shutdown.

In a Monday floor session, the House voted 28 to 10 to allow the budget bill to go into effect Thursday, July 1. Among the no votes were all the peninsula’s House representatives — Ben Carpenter, of Nikiski, Ron Gillham, of Soldotna, and Sarah Vance, of Homer.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly has approved a final budget for the fiscal year beginning this summer, clocking in at $87,787,866 in the general fund.

But there are still several pieces of the budget that are anything but final.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly is in the middle of its annual budget process, and it’s facing some tough decisions of how to pay the borough’s bills.

Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce presented his proposed budget for the upcoming year to the assembly back in April, which includes about $8 million in spending from the borough’s fund balance. That would spend down the fund balance below the minimum recommended level, requiring the borough to bring it back up by fiscal year 2025. The assembly has been workshopping the budget since the end of April and has to finish it before July 1.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Should Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly members who work in the school district get to vote on the district’s budget?

It’s a question that stumped the assembly on Tuesday night, and came up within the context of setting a budget floor for the school district. The floor is the minimum amount the borough can put toward education for the next fiscal year. 

Ultimately, the two assembly members in question did vote. But it took a while to get there.


It will be a while before the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District knows for sure how much it will have in its budget next fiscal year.

But the process is in motion. The district is holding public forums later this month to educate people on the budget process and crowdsource information about funding priorities.

Already, it’s drafted a preliminary budget for FY22.

“But it is just a draft," said school board president Zen Kelly.

The borough assembly passed its fiscal year 2021 budget late last night with few major changes, but plenty of debate about those changes.

The approved budget provides about $82.8 million in general fund expenditures, which pay for services like general government operations and the borough’s contribution to the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. This year, that contribution is $50 million, a little more than $2 million below the maximum amount the borough could have contributed by statute.

While the borough budget usually draws lively debate, this year puts the assembly in a particular pickle. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the borough is expecting a significant drop in revenues, which leaves a shortfall that the administration and assembly will have to find some way to cover.

Most of the time, that would be taxes. But there is one other possibility this year: federal relief funds. Since March, the federal government has been working on distributing money to businesses, individuals, and states to help with the impact of the pandemic. Alaska so far has received about $1.5 billion.

But there are particular ways those funds can be used. For example, until the Secretary of the Treasury made an exception, they couldn’t be used to pay police and firefighters. Cities and boroughs, including the Kenai, have lost revenue through declines in sales taxes and property taxes as fewer people shop and eat out and properties—particularly oil and gas—have lost value.


The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is doing its annual roadshow, rolling out the proposed budget in a series of community meetings around the borough. Budget presentations were held in Kenai and Soldotna this week.

At a meeting Thursday at Soldotna High School, KPBSD Finance Director Liz Hays explained that the district is looking at a $2.26 million deficit next year.

“So, we ended FY19 with unassigned fund balance in the amount of $3.9 million, and so this year we’re not going to make cuts to accommodate the deficit we’re facing because that money will come out of fund balance to balance the budget for FY21,” Hays said.


The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District shared successes and concerns with the legislators during House and Senate committee meetings last week.

Board of Education member Debbie Cary, of Ninilchik, River City Academy student Kaegan Koski and district Communications Director Pegge Erkeneff participated in the Alaska Association of School Boards’ Legislative Fly-in day Feb. 10.

Cary highlighted some of the academic innovations KPBSD is pursuing, such as personalized learning, video-conferencing, a drone academy and career and technical education.

“As part of our strategic plan, we focus on four Rs — ready, relevant, responsive and rigor,” Cary said.

Micciche eyeing more cuts as legislative session begins

Jan 20, 2020
AK Legislature


Senator Peter Micciche held a townhall meeting in Soldotna Thursday night, just ahead of the opening of the second session of the 31st state legislature.


District begins crafting FY21 budget

Nov 18, 2019


The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is beginning its annual process to craft next year’s budget. That process has been marked in recent years by budget cuts from state, translating to staffing cuts in the district. Administrators remain optimistic for funding this year, but recognize the challenges they could face.



Budget impasse affecting scholarships, school plans

Jul 22, 2019
Kenai Peninsula College


Over the weekend, the state legislature was unable to come up with the votes to make any major changes to Governor Mike Dunleavy’s budget, or his plans to let certain funds revert back into state coffers. Those funds go to things like electric subsidies for rural Alaskans and scholarships for college students.



Office of Rep. Gary Knopp


That portion of the state legislature in Juneau for a special session was again unable to find the votes necessary to override Governor Mike Dunleavy’s vetoes. Roughly a third of the legislature met again at Wasilla Middle School. KDLL’s Shaylon Cochran spoke to Gary Knopp Friday afternoon, the Central Peninsula’s lone legislator in Juneau.



Assembly approves borough budget

Jun 5, 2019

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.

Knopp hopeful Senate budget will be done next week

May 31, 2019


A number of state budget issues remain unresolved and layoffs for state employees or even a shutdown are possible if the legislature and the governor can’t come to an agreement soon. Kenai representative Gary Knopp spoke with KDLL’s Shaylon Cochran about what a special session might look like to address those and this session’s thorniest issue, the permanent fund dividend.



Assembly conducts annual debate over 'non-departmentals'

May 24, 2019

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly had its annual debate over so-called non-departmental funding this week as it continues to work through next year’s budget.

School district employees vote for strike

May 23, 2019


Kenai Peninsula Borough School District employees voted Wednesday to strike next fall over rising healthcare costs. Members of both unions representing teachers and support staff in the school district voted overwhelmingly in support of the strike if both parties can’t agree on terms of a new contract this summer.



Assembly encourages administration to fill vacant posts

May 9, 2019


A hiring freeze may be thawing out at the borough. The assembly approved a resolution at its meeting this week encouraging the administration to fill positions that have been open for more than a year.

Kenai city budget will be conservative, Ostrander says

Apr 25, 2019


The city of Kenai will release its draft budget for the next fiscal year in a couple weeks. City manager Paul Ostrander spoke with KDLL about putting together a new budget amid all the uncertainty with the state budget. Last year’s general fund appropriations totaled a little more than $16 million with all expenditures coming in at just over $28 million and Ostrander expects a modest increase in the 2020 budget of less than one percent.


Kenai Conversation: Paul Ostrander, Kenai City Manager

Apr 24, 2019

The city of Kenai will release its draft budget for the next fiscal year in a couple weeks. City manager Paul Ostrander spoke with KDLL’s Shaylon Cochran about putting together a new budget amid all the uncertainty with the state budget. Last year’s general fund appropriations totaled a little more than $16 million with all expenditures coming in at just over $28 million and Ostrander expects a modest increase in the 2020 budget of less than one percent.

Assembly set to vote on school funding in Seward

Apr 15, 2019


The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly’s annual meeting in Seward usually has a fairly light, local agenda. But this year, they’ve even switched venues from city hall to the more spacious high school auditorium as education funding measures on the agenda are sure to draw a crowd.



District looks into consolidating Soldotna Prep, SoHi

Apr 12, 2019
Shaylon Cochran/KDLL


The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is holding meetings across the Peninsula to gauge public opinion on different options to consolidate or close schools in the face of expected budget cuts. At a public meeting this week, district officials discussed the possible consolidation of Soldotna Prep into Soldotna High School, putting freshmen through seniors back in the same building for the first time since 2014.



District seeks input on consolidation options

Apr 9, 2019


The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District announced last week it will begin a series of public meetings to talk about various consolidation options around the district. One of those options is to bring 9th graders back into Soldotna High School.

Assembly hears calls for supplemental education funding

Apr 3, 2019


The assembly took nearly three hours of public testimony before it finally got an action item on the agenda. One of which was related to education funding.

Attorney General explains amendment proposals in Kenai

Mar 26, 2019


A key part of Governor Mike Duleavy’s long term budget vision includes fundamental changes in how the legislature is allowed to appropriate money. The governor has proposed three constitutional amendments, and this week, began a roadshow hoping to drum up support.



Jenny Neyman/KDLL

Gov. Mike Dunleavy, Department of Revenue Commissioner Bruce Tangeman, Director of the Office of Management and Budget Donna Arduin, Attorney General Kevin Clarkson and representatives of Americans For Prosperity, which sponsored the meeting, gave their interpretations of Alaska’s fiscal situation and asnwered a selection of submitted questions from the audience. Full audio of the meeting, held at 6 p.m. March 25 at the Cannery Lodge in Kenai, follows:

Soldotna council to take up state budget resolution

Mar 22, 2019


The city of Kenai and the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly have both adopted resolutions asking the governor to reconsider some of his various budget proposals. In the case of Kenai and the borough, it had to do with collecting taxes on oil and gas infrastructure. Next week, the Soldotna city council will entertain a resolution that asks the governor to take a more long-term view of the budget and what it means for cities.

Alaska Legislature


A House sub-finance committee went through its regularly scheduled business Monday morning, but not all members stuck around to the end.



Kenai seeks input for budget priorities

Mar 8, 2019


Just as lawmakers in Juneau are trying to prioritize spending, local governments are also looking for input on how to operate with less revenue. The city of Kenai is holding a meeting Tuesday night to get that input from the community.