The Kenai Peninsula Borough building, pictured Sept. 12, 2018, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

The Kenai Peninsula Borough building, pictured Sept. 12, 2018, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Assembly overrides mayor’s veto of tourism council funds

An ordinance awarding a $150,000 to the nonprofit passed at the Nov. 6 assembly meeting 6-3.

The Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council may receive borough funds after all.

With a 6-3 majority vote, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly last Tuesday overruled Mayor Charlie Pierce’s veto of a $150,000 grant approved for the council.

An ordinance awarding a $150,000 grant to the nonprofit, which promotes the Kenai Peninsula as a “world class visitor destination,” was passed at the Nov. 6 assembly meeting 6-3. Assembly members Kenn Carpenter, Norm Blakeley and Jesse Bjorkman opposed the measure, which was ultimately vetoed by the mayor.

Sponsored by Brent Hibbert, the ordinance approved last week appropriates $150,000 from borough general fund balance to the tourism marketing council for the purpose of promoting tourism in areas of the borough outside the cities.

Carpenter, Blakeley and Bjorkman stood by their previous vote and supported the veto presented at Tuesday’s meeting.

In a letter announcing the veto, Pierce said the grant was a special appropriation outside of the budget cycle that is $50,000 more than the original $100,000 that was proposed in the borough’s FY 2020 budget, which is “setting bad precedent.” In his letter, Pierce said the council’s impact on the tourism industry is highly speculative. He said in his letter that he has not been shown any data showing they have increased tourism in the borough.

“I see there is ample support for an override and I anticipated that,” Pierce said at Tuesday’s meeting. “You’re giving an additional $150,000 to an agency that has not demonstrated that they are even a viable agency at this point.”

Pierce also cites an “uncertain” financial outlook for the borough in his letter. He said his administration has been working hard to save money so that increases in taxes would not be needed to continue to provide primary services.

“It’s $150,000 we can’t afford to spend,” Pierce said at the meeting.

The tourism marketing council submitted a grant application to the borough in February for $100,000. Hibbert’s ordinance allows the council an opportunity to update its grant application to include an outline of proposed projects. The ordinance also requires the council to present program objectives to the assembly for approval, before the grant will be awarded. The council has 45 days to send in an updated application, which will also be presented to borough administration.

It’s the second time this year the mayor has vetoed funds for the tourism marketing council. In his FY 2020 budget, Pierce zeroed out the $100,000 tourism marketing council funds provided in years past. The assembly amended the $100,000 back into the budget, before they passed it in May. The mayor vetoed the $100,000 June 18, and the assembly failed to override.

Since the 1990s, the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council has been funded by the borough.

In FY 2019, the borough provided the council with $100,000. In the FY 2018 budget, the borough supported the council with $305,980 in funds, and $340,00 in FY 2017.

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