Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Peter Micciche presents information about the borough during a chamber luncheon on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Peter Micciche presents information about the borough during a chamber luncheon on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Micciche talks home-schooling, emergency services at joint chamber luncheon

He opened Thursday’s presentation by summarizing the results of a community survey that the borough circulated shortly in February

Speaking at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Peter Micciche on Thursday discussed the borough’s efforts to lower property taxes for residents, laid out his vision for the future of emergency services on the peninsula and emphasized the importance of bolstering local home-school programs.

Micciche opened Thursday’s presentation by summarizing the results of a community survey that the borough circulated shortly after he was elected in February. The survey asked borough residents about the quality of services offered by the borough and where they get information about things the borough is doing. Micciche said the borough used results to help inform its road service contracts for the upcoming year.

“While we were doing 2024 contracts, we had to have a chat with a few folks that weren’t performing at a borough standard, changed a few contracts, changed the way our contracts work to ensure that people had adequate equipment for, I’m sure most of you remember, the two 24-inch snowstorms where folks couldn’t go to work for a couple days,” Micciche said.

Micciche emphasized the importance of the borough’s budget for the current fiscal year as the first balanced budget in 10 years, noting that the budget increased by 2.5% from last year. He said the borough is also looking at ways to decrease property taxes for residents to avoid building up its fund balance, or savings amount.

“We’re going to try to give taxpayers a break by bringing the mill rate down,” Micciche said. “We don’t need more money, we need to use the money we have efficiently and effectively and responsibly to our taxpayers. The two previous years added 16% to the borough budget which, by any definition, is simply unsustainable.”

Micciche also presented his vision for the future of emergency services on the peninsula, which he said covers regions — North, South, East and Central — rather than specific communities.

He pointed to efforts this summer to create an emergency service area for Cooper Landing, where emergency services are currently provided by volunteers who rely on community donations. Creating an emergency service area for Cooper Landing, assembly members learned, would have roughly doubled the mill rate for the community because there are so few residents across which to distribute the necessary taxes.

Micciche said Thursday that borough communities need to set aside “parochialism” and come together in a way that lets them keep their individual identities, but also benefit from the efficiencies that come with having a large volume of users.

“The Kenai Peninsula Borough has done business a certain way for the last 50 years, and it’s just time for us to grow up,” Micciche said. “It’s time for us to be more efficient. It’s time for us to do a better job.”

Micciche’s Thursday luncheon presentation fell on the same day as a community conversation hosted by the borough and the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District about home-schooling in the Kenai Peninsula Borough. Both Micciche and KPBSD Superintendent Clayton Holland have identified bolstering the district’s home-school program as a priority.

Per KPBSD, there are about 1,440 students living in the borough who attend a home-school program that is not Connections — KPBSD’s program. Of those, about 95% attend Interior Distance Education of Alaska, or IDEA, which operates out of Galena. The Galena City School District, therefore, is receiving money from the State of Alaska for students who live on the peninsula.

“That means leakage out of our district of between $7 million and $8 million a year,” Micciche said. “So when you think about cutting theaters and pools and sports — the money’s there. We just have to bring it back and we have to bring it back by competing with those other home-school services.”

Other accomplishments Micciche touted included revisions to some of the borough’s election codes, the reopening of reuse spaces at borough solid waste facilities and open lines of communication between the borough and other state and local agencies. That’s in addition to advocating early for state funds for local projects and celebrating the accomplishments of borough staff.

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

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the amount by which the mill rate would increase for Cooper Landing if the community established a new service area. The mill rate would have roughly doubled.

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