Soldotna passes budget, mill rate; talks capital projects

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Mayor Pete Sprague’s name.

The Soldotna City Council passed the town’s operating budget for fiscal year 2018 in 15 minutes.

With no public or council comments and not much else on the Wednesday night meeting’s agenda, the council passed Soldotna’s approximately $12.5 million operating budget swiftly and unanimously.

“Thank you all for going through this process, which has been very smooth,” said Mayor Pete Sprague before the vote. “It appears that folks both here and in the public are comfortable and satisfied with the budget as presented.”

The council also unanimously adopted a resolution setting the city’s property tax rate at 0.5 mills, the same as last year.

City Manager Mark Dixson said administrators think this is the proper mill rate for this year’s budget.

“We are recommending that we hold the mill rate at the rate of 0.5 where it has been the last few years,” he said.

There were no changes made to the budget since a work session held in May.

Soldotna administrators and council members considered raising the mill rate during last year’s budget process to make up for a deficit the city was facing, due in part to the city’s temporary loss of its year-round sales tax, but opted to keep it the status quo at 0.5 mills and dip into the city’s fund balance to cover the difference.

Council members also unanimously voted to adopt this year’s updated Five-Year Capital Improvement Plan, a fluctuating planning document containing the city’s immediate and long-term capital improvement needs.

A draft of the city’s capital budget for FY2018 was reviewed at a work session before Wednesday’s meeting and a revised version will be introduced June 28, to be voted on after a public hearing July 12. Public Works Director Kyle Kornelis said during the work session that the city’s capital budget has fallen in the $1 million to $1.3 million range over the last few years.

This year, the draft capital budget presented at the work session came out to $730,000. Kornelis said the second phase of a project to rehabilitate and repair Kobuk Street will be the main focus and main use of capital funds this fiscal year. It has been allotted $640,000 of the $730,000 draft budget.

“The draft capital budget is a small reduction from what we’ve seen in the past,” Kornelis said. “It’s in line with our recent changes and kind of rethinking of essential capital projects versus other (projects).”

Originally, the Kobuk project was broken out into several phases stretching into 2020 in the Five-Year Capital Improvement Plan. After questions from the council about the merits of shortening the time frame during a May work session on that plan, Kornelis said he and city administrators went back, crunched some numbers and decided to consolidate phases two and three of the Kobuk project.

Phase one of the Kobuk project was slated to begin Thursday.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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