Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander (left) and Kenai Finance Director Terry Eubank moderate a city council work session discussing budget goals at Kenai City Hall on Monday, Jan. 10, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander (left) and Kenai Finance Director Terry Eubank moderate a city council work session discussing budget goals at Kenai City Hall on Monday, Jan. 10, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai developing budget goals

Officials aim to provide more transparency in the budget process

The Kenai City Council convened Monday evening to set goals that will guide the city’s upcoming fiscal year 2023 budget process. Fiscal year 2023 begins on July 1, 2022 and ends on June 30, 2023.

Kenai Finance Director Terry Eubank wrote in a Jan. 4 memo to the council that goals adopted by the council will direct city administration throughout the process. This is the first year the council will vote on the budget goals, which Eubank said is considered a “best practice” and provides more transparency in the budget process. For example, Monday’s work session was meant to give members of the public an opportunity to weigh in on the budget.

“As evident by the minimal changes made by the Council to the administration’s proposed budgets in prior years, the administration has succeeded in anticipating the goals that have guided the budget process,” Eubank wrote.

Eubank said this year, a formal goal-setting process will be especially important because of “economy and inflationary pressures not seen in the United States for 40 years.” Those pressures, he said, include anticipated 6% inflation in 2021, which “amplify” the basic questions the city addresses each year through the creation of its budget.

Those questions, Eubank wrote, include things like whether or not the city tax rates and fees are enough to fund the city’s operations and capital needs, to what extent the city can address employee compensation and benefits, to what extent the city’s financial reserves will be able to maintain existing infrastructure and what the minimum level of financial reserves are needed to “ensure sustainable operations.”

Among the goals presented to the council Monday are to submit a budget that maintains the city’s current mill and sales tax rates, to propose salary schedule adjustments commensurate with inflation as measured by the Alaska Consumer Price Index and to improve the sustainability of employee medical, dental and life insurance while also working toward a 15% employee cost share.

Other goals include trying to reduce the cost of goods and services without negatively impacting operation and compiling a list of capital projects for adoption by the city council.

Changes proposed by the council Monday will be incorporated into a resolution that will go before the body during its Jan. 19 meeting. Monday’s work session can be viewed on the City of Kenai’s YouTube channel.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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