Time to start thinking about next year’s budget

I see evidence of a lot of hard work on the part of both the School and Borough leadership under our current modalities of budget creation; but my heart goes out to you my fellow tax payers that are asked to support growing budgets in a falling economy. Do you want to change the modality of budget creation?

As we all know, oil prices have tanked. Many jobs have been lost. Many are leaving the state. As Deborah Andersen of Homer says, “Everyone is cutting back on their budgets, not just the government, but the people as well.”

Did you see the May 24 Clarion Article, “Two Thirds of the U.S. Would Struggle to Cover a $1,000 Crisis”?

Permanent fund dividends are probably going to be halved. Almost certainly, we are looking at increased state taxes in addition to borough and city taxes! Take a look at the gas pump prices! Many of us are on fixed or limited income. There are very few in the private sector that enjoy the unmatched, plush health care and retirement benefits of the Borough and School District employees that we tax payers are being asked to support!

It is unbelievable that many have seen their home tax assessments increase dramatically — as much as 23 percent — in the face of a collapsing economy! Even many that were flooded in the K-Beach flooding saw assessment increases even with damage from the flooding!

We are currently experiencing a heroin epidemic. And now it breaks my heart to see that we adults are enabling the sale of commercial pot, super-pot as Colorado is painfully finding out, to add to the poisoning of our children, youth and workforce precisely at a time we are attempting to encourage major new industry to come to our area! I don’t understand why we adults are so unable to “connect the dots.” I don’t know about you but as an engineer with agriculture, mining, industrial and aerospace experience I can readily attest to the difficulty of finding a competent, reliable and safe workforce! Precedent shows that for every pot dollar generated it will cost us ten dollars down the road as we are so painfully beginning to realize with our heroin epidemic and that doesn’t even take into account the cost destruction of lives and families!

To my fellow taxpayers, here are some options for changing our budget modality. Are any of these of interest to you? Or, you may well have ideas of your own?

Over the past 70 years I have seen viable options. I was raised at a time when you earned wages but you carried your own health insurance and you planned for your own retirement.

For a number of years when I went to school there were no sports programs. Music lessons, art lessons and sports were not burdened upon the tax payer. They were done outside of school and supported by the participants. They were not part of school expenses. All of my school years were in public school.

There was no bus transportation. You either walked, rode a bike or your parents took you. There was no breakfast or lunch program. There were no early-learning, pre-kindergarten or kindergarten programs.

In those days, our education ranked very high internationally! Today according to the December 2010 ‘The Atlantic’ magazine, the U.S. is ranked 49th out of 107 states and nations! Alaska is ranked even lower at 52nd!

The Kenai school budget you are currently supporting is right at $16,000 per student per year.

By contrast, I have a school in my Sterling District that spends about $5,000 per student per year. They also function without all the above mentioned options and their 8th graders score equivalent to Junior and Senior High School students on the California Achievement Tests.

My question to you, my fellow tax payers going forward, in what appears to be more very tight budget years ahead is, what options do you want to keep and which are you receptive to discontinuing for say a budget reduction to $75 million? But don’t be quick or facetious for you may not be willing to stomach the consequences or you may be unwilling to accept the corresponding loss of service.

It will take a response from many tax payers to the Borough and School administrations, the School Board and the Assembly to make any net budget reduction for the 2018 budget. Remember, elections have consequences! If your collective desire is budget reduction be sure your candidate has a firm commitment to do so.

The alternate is upward tax pressure from two sources: Loss or reduction of state revenue sharing and our propensity for budget creep. One needs only to look at the Borough Assembly agenda to see the myriad of tax increases flying in your direction via the Assembly.