Time after time, we hear a candidate seeking elected office promise to “make hard decisions.”
Yet, when it comes time to make good on that promise, those elected officials put off those hard decisions.
That was the case Tuesday, when the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly passed what was described by Borough Mayor Mike Navarre as a responsible budget in terms of spending. However, rejected proposed measures that would have generated the revenue necessary to balance it.
Mayor Navarre’s spending plan included a .5-mill increase in the property tax rate, which the assembly amended to keep the rate the same as the current year, and assembly member Dale Bagley’s proposal to shorten the seasonal sales tax exemption on groceries was defeated.
Yet the assembly also made the decision to boost school district funding and continue to provide funding for the various non-profit agencies often referred to as non-departmentals, such as the Kenai Peninsula Tourism and Marketing Council, and the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District.
We’re not quibbling with those decisions. Clearly, the school district is between a rock and a hard place, and every little bit put toward education helps. The assembly’s approval allows the district to fill 12 of the 30 positions that have been on hold until the Legislature approves a state budget.
Likewise, funding agencies that provide economic development for the borough is a reasonable investment or borough funds.
However, as Mayor Navarre pointed out, if nothing changes, the borough will have depleted its fund balance in the next four years. That’s a very short time in which to draw down a savings account.
Perhaps the assembly will consider some different revenue options in the coming months, or revisit some of the options that voters rejected last year, such as an increase in the sales tax cap or a reduction in the senior city property tax exemption. Enacting any of those will certainly be a hard decision.
But for now, it appears those hard decisions are being pushed off until a future date — at which point those making them will have fewer options, and the decisions become even harder.