budget

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.

 

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