The sign outside Soldotna City Hall is seen here on July 16, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

The sign outside Soldotna City Hall is seen here on July 16, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna approves biennial budget

The council voted to fund wireless internet access at the sports complex and at Soldotna Creek Park.

Wi-Fi at city facilities and bolstering the city’s mini-grant program were among the issues discussed by the Soldotna City Council during their Wednesday night meeting, where they unanimously approved the city’s biennial budget as amended.

The budget is the city’s first biennial budget, which budgets for two fiscal years instead of one. FY22 begins on July 1, 2021 and ends on June 30, 2022. FY23 begins on July 1, 2022 and ends on June 30, 2023. Conservative budgeting by city administration last year in anticipation of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the local economy resulted in unexpected financial returns for Soldotna.

For FY22, the city is projecting about $13.66 million in total operating revenues and about $14.3 in total expenditures. It’s expecting total expenditures to increase by about 5% from FY21 due to increases in the cost of living, dispatch service fees from the Kenai Peninsula Borough and anticipated increases in account categories necessary to restore those categories to their pre-COVID levels, among other things. That is compared to estimated FY23 revenues of about $13.86 million and expenditures of about $14.27 million.

Amendments made to the budget during the council’s Wednesday meeting included, among other things, adding money to expand public Wi-Fi access at city facilities, increasing the amount of money the city puts toward its mini-grant program and increasing the amount of money to be used on equipment purchases.

Specifically, the council voted to add money to the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex and to the Parks and Recreation department budgets to provide wireless internet access at the sports complex and at Soldotna Creek Park. The increase in money to be used on equipment purchases is in response to updated pricing the city recently received for equipment included in the budget.

The proposal to increase the amount of money in the city’s mini-grant program, which the council approved unanimously, came from council member Jordan Chilson, who said it would allow the city to fully support two applicants each award cycle. Previously, the Soldotna Mini Grant Program operated with an annual budget of $3,000 to be used on two applicants twice a year. With $1,500 available each grant cycle, the city needed to split that between two projects of their choice. By increasing the program budget to $4,000 annually, the city could fund four projects to the $1,000 cap each year.

“The issue that we have run into over the last couple of years is we’ve had an abundance of excellent community projects coming before that committee and in a situation where we have two applications that we would fully like to support, we have to choose to either award $1,000 to one and $500 to the other, or $750 to both,” Chilson said.

The council voted unanimously to pass the city’s biennial budget as amended.

Soldotna’s full biennial budget, as well as a video recording of Wednesday’s council meeting, can be viewed on the city website at soldotna.org.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to say that FY23 begins on July 1, 2022 and ends on June 30, 2023.

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

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