Now is the time for tough conversations about the budget

  • Thursday, December 11, 2014 3:50pm
  • Opinion

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District administration and school board recently discussed the costs and benefits of maintaining pools.

Faced with a budget deficit, it’s an important conversation for the district to have. On one hand it’s hard to argue for keeping pools open if it means cutting classroom staff. On the other, it’s hard to argue against the value of teaching students about swimming and water safety in a region with so many bodies of water and water-based activities.

A discussion on pool usage is just one of many difficult conversations that the school district — as well as every other government body and agency that receives funding from the state — should be having. Those conversations need to start happening now, while there’s still time to plan and budget for contingencies, because if those conversations are put off, considering the state’s fiscal outlook, there won’t be many good options available down the road.

The state on Wednesday released its latest revenue forecast. The Associated Press reports the price of oil, which was predicted to average $105 a barrel when the state budget was approved last spring, is now expected to average $76 a barrel for the fiscal year that ends June 30, 2015. For 2016, that average is expected to dip even lower, to $66 per barrel, before rebounding.

While the drop in the price of oil might be good for consumers, the state derives more than 90 percent of its revenue from oil. The state is facing a potential budget deficit of $3.5 billion this year. The forecast expects unrestricted general fund revenue of $2.6 billion this year, down from $5.4 billion in 2014. That number is expected to be $2.2 billion in 2016.

While the numbers look grim, Alaska doesn’t need to panic. In recent years, when the price of oil was high, lawmakers were able to replenish the state’s savings accounts, and Alaska is in the fortunate position of having the resources to weather the storm.

That said, things are going to be tight for a few years, and the state can’t pay for everything out of budget reserves indefinitely. It’s important to have conversations now about funding priorities. It’s also just as important to have conversations about what we can afford, what we can do without — and what we can’t afford to do without. Having those conversations now gives us options when it comes to making decisions. We have time to make reasonable decisions.

However, if those conversations are put off, circumstances will dictate those decisions for us.

More in Opinion

This screenshot of an Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation map of PFAS sites in Alaska shows that contamination from so-called “forever chemicals” is observable throughout the state. (Screenshot | Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)
Opinion: More action must be taken on PFAS

Toxic forever chemicals present in high concentrations in Nikishka Bay Utility Water Supply

Logo courtesy of League of Women Voters.
League of Women Voters of Alaska: Join us in calling for campaign finance limits

The involvement of money in our elections is a huge barrier for everyday Alaskans who run for public office

Promise garden flowers are assembled for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Opinion: Let’s keep momentum in the fight against Alzheimer’s

It’s time to reauthorize these bills to keep up our momentum in the fight to end Alzheimer’s and all other types of Dementia.

Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press
Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., questions Navy Adm. Lisa Franchetti during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Sept. 14 on Capitol Hill.
Opinion: Music to the ears of America’s adversaries

Russia and China have interest in seeing America’s democracy and standing in the world weakened

Dr. Sarah Spencer. (Photo by Maureen Todd and courtesy of Dr. Sarah Spencer)
Opinion: Alaskans needs better access to addiction treatment. Telehealth can help.

I have witnessed firsthand the struggles patients face in accessing addiction care

Former Gov. Frank Murkowski speaks on a range of subjects during an interview with the Juneau Empire in May 2019. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Need for accounting and legislative oversight of the permanent fund

There is a growing threat to the permanent fund, and it is coming from the trustees themselves

(Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Imagine the cost of health and happiness if set by prescription drug companies

If you didn’t have heartburn before seeing the price, you will soon — and that requires another prescription

Mike Arnold testifies in opposition to the use of calcium chloride by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities on Kenai Peninsula roads during a Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2023, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Peninsula Votes: Civic actions that carried weight

Watching an impressive display of testimony, going to an event, or one post, can help so many people learn about something they were not even aware of

The Kasilof River is seen from the Kasilof River Recreation Area, July 30, 2019, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Opinion: Helicopter fishing a detriment to fish and fishers

Proposal would prohibit helicopter transport for anglers on southern peninsula

The cover of the October 2023 edition of Alaska Economic Trends magazine, a product of the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. (Image via department website)
Dunleavy administration’s muzzling of teacher pay report is troubling

Alaska Economic Trends is recognized both in Alaska and nationally as an essential tool for understanding Alaska’s unique economy

Image via
5 tips for creating a culture of caring in our high schools

Our message: No matter what challenges you’re facing, we see you. We support you. And we’re here for you.

The Alaska State Capitol is photographed in Juneau, Alaska. (Clarise Larson/Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Vance’s bill misguided approach to Middle East crisis

In arguing for her legislation, Vance offers a simplistic, one-dimensional understanding of the conflict