Proposed borough budget introduced

Public testimony next for plan, which would reduce property taxes by half mill

Posted: Thursday, May 09, 2002

A new borough budget is one step closer to completion.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly introduced a $52.2 million fiscal year 2003 budget ordinance Tuesday at its meeting in Seward and is set to take testimony over the next few weeks from the administration, department heads, service area boards and the general public before agreeing on the final numbers by June 4.

The measure includes $30.1 million to run borough schools and $11.7 million to cover the daily expenses of the various borough departments.

A proposed half-mill cut in borough property taxes remains on the table. It would shave the mill rate to 6.5 mills and save the owner of a $100,000 home $50 a year in property taxes.

Public hearings on the 2003 spending plan are scheduled for May 21 and June 4. On the Mondays just prior to each of those Tuesday meetings, the assembly will sit in all-day sessions hearing from the administration, department heads and others and discussing the figures.

Also adopted Tuesday were new boundaries for assembly districts.

The recent annexation by the city of Homer, which is Assembly District 8, reduced the size of District 9, a horseshoe-shaped district that circles Homer and Kachemak Bay from Diamond Ridge to Seldovia.

District 8, meanwhile, also will include territory on the west side of Cook Inlet south of Chinitna Bay, an area taken from District 3, Nikiski.

The eastern boundary of the Soldotna district, Assembly District 4, now follows a revised state precinct line, its southern boundary includes a portion of Funny River Road, and its western boundary was adjusted to compensate for the added population attributable to the eastern and southern adjustments.

Those changes required new boundaries for Kenai South, District 1, and Sterling's District 5. Sterling added significant territory to the north in an area formerly split between District 3, Nikiski, and District 6, Seward, and to the south into territory once part of the Tustumena district, Assembly District 7.

The Nikiski district, meanwhile, got new southern and eastern boundaries and lost a portion of its territory on the west side of Cook Inlet to District 8. Assembly District 6, the Seward district, added unpopulated land to its western boundary.

In adopting the new boundaries, the assembly truncated the terms of four assembly members who must run for re-election in October. Some terms will be less than the normal three years in order that seats will be up for election on a rotating basis of two per election.

Seats 1 and 9, held respectively by Bill Popp of Kenai South and Milli Martin of Diamond Ridge, will be on the ballot as one-year terms. Popp's and Martin's current terms were due to expire in 2003.

Seats 4 and 7, held respectively by Pete Sprague of Soldotna and Paul Fischer of Tustumena, will be on the ballot as two-year terms. Their current terms were due to expire in 2004.

Seats 2, 5 and 8, held respectively by Assembly President Tim Navarre of Kenai North, Grace Merkes of Sterling and Chris Moss of Homer, will be on the ballot as full three-year terms. Each seat was to have been up for election this year in any case.

Only Seats 3 and 6, held by Gary Superman of Nikiski and Ron Long of Seward, escaped truncation. District 3's boundaries were altered, but the change in population was less than that requiring a new election. District 6's adjustment made no change at all in its population. Thus, Superman and Long will serve out their current terms, which expire in 2004 and 2003, respectively.

In other business, the assembly appropriated money for school greenhouses where seedlings for the borough reforestation program will be grown. Some $60,000 in timber sales receipts will be spent at Skyview High School and Kalifornsky Beach Elementary School. A greenhouse at Seward High School already is operational.

The assembly also introduced an ordinance redefining four categories of subdivision roads and the construction standards that would make them eligible for borough maintenance. Ordinance 2002-13 gets a public hearing June 4.

In other business, the assembly introduced an ordinance that would place two options for restructuring the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education on the fall ballot. If adopted as proposed, voters would choose between the status quo -- all members elected at-large, or a by-district election format in which winners would represent specific districts, but be elected to those district seats by all voters in the borough. Ordinance 2002-16, introduced by Navarre, will get a public hearing at the June 4 assembly meeting in Soldotna.

The assembly also passed a resolution offered by Moss opposing allocation of crab fishery resources in federally managed waters in Alaska to existing processors only. That idea is under consideration by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

"We believe that this would have a negative effect on the prices offered to fishermen and would also reduce the number of new processors that would be able to compete for resources delivered to Alaska communities," Moss, a commercial fisher, wrote in a memorandum to the assembly.

Moss warned that while the measure under consideration by the council is for the Bering Sea, it could become "the template for groundfish and be expanded into the Gulf of Alaska, ultimately affecting Kenai Peninsula communities, fishermen and processors."

Another ordinance passed by the assembly appropriates additional funding needed by the Kachemak Emergency Service Area to purchase a Class A pumper truck. Last year, the assembly approved spending $177,285 on the truck, but bids came in much higher. The lowest was for $233,690. Subsequent negotiations lowered that to $219,550.

The service area identified funds within its own budget to make up the $42,265 shortfall. Ordinance 2001-19-38 passed Tuesday approves spending that money, and authorizes borough Mayor Dale Bagley to award the fire truck contract to United Fire Service of Issaquah, Wash.

The bulk of the funds, nearly $160,000, came from grant money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The rest came from local sources.

The assembly also passed a resolution awarding a contract for professional design services for a Kachemak Emergency Services firehouse. The contract will go to Bezek Durst Seiser of Anchorage.

Finally, the assembly approved a $75,000 contract with Northern Economics of Anchorage to do a feasibility study of a proposed Nikiski Industrial Park.

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