After some discussion and debate, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly last week approved a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 and ends June 30, 2015.
While anyone reading through the document may finds items to criticize, the budget appears balanced in two important ways — government expenditures and revenues pencil out while a healthy fund balance is maintained, and borough residents receive a good level of government services for taxes paid.
The Clarion reported that last Tuesday’s budget discussion focused on three areas — education, funding for non-departmental organizations and assembly expenses — and while votes were split on some amendments, the assembly unanimously approved the spending plan. The discussion on those items shows the assembly taking a pragmatic approach to allocating public money.
The assembly took a cautious stance on school funding, voting for a $500,000 increase to its contribution to the school district while waiting to see how the rest of the education funding picture shapes up before addressing the rest of the district’s $1.5 million request.
As assembly member Charlie Pierce noted, the school district is not facing a financial emergency, and as Borough Mayor Mike Navarre said, the borough can increase funding at a later date, but can’t reduce it.
Assembly members considered a proposal to cut funding for non-departmental agencies in half, and another to reduce funding by 10 percent. Those amendments did not pass, but during the debate the assembly was able to look beyond its own budget and consider what the agencies are able to do with the funding, for example, leveraging borough support to obtain matching funding from other sources.
And on the topic of assembly expenses, assembly members were able to trim their travel budget while prioritizing trips that most benefit the Kenai Peninsula, including trips to visit with lawmakers in Juneau and Washington, D.C.
“I think there’s value to some travel and I think the assembly recognizes that even with the reductions they made,” Navarre told the Clarion. Navarre also noted that borough spending priorities are where they should be.
When it comes to spending the public’s money, you can’t please everyone. But the budget plan approved by the assembly shows a responsible approach to fiscal planning and is the result of a good budget process.