After some tweaks and tinkering, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly passed a fiscal year 2017 budget Tuesday with general fund expenditures just under $80 million.
Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre told the assembly that his administration’s budgeting approach was to save some dollars where it made the most sense.
“We approached the budget this year and had great support from the department heads and the service areas, with the understanding and looking at the economic situation that the state finds itself in. So we approached it very conservatively,” Navarre said.
The Capital Projects Department will merge into the Purchasing and Contracting Department, with a reduction of four full-time-equivalent positions. The borough also plans to maintain the same level of funding for the school district next year as this year.
A proposal to close the landfill and solid waste transfer facilities across the borough one day a week generated some debate. The administration suggested closing one day a week year-round. That would save $256,000, including a reduction of one and a half full-time-equivalent positions. But that met with public pushback and reluctance from the assembly.
Sara Crapuchettes, with Alaska Waste, the private business that handles trash pickup services and manages most of the transfer stations, said closing one day a week — especially in the summer — would cause more trouble than it’s worth.
“You just can’t ask a restaurant or a business to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to shut down the dump one day a week so we don’t want you to put out any trash,’” Crapuchettes said. “We already see transfer stations, when we’re closed at 6 o’clock, the next morning our attendants come, there’s trash piled up outside our gates.”
A majority of assembly members, though, including Willy Dunne, of Homer, think people will adjust to a closure.
“Even before I was on the assembly I’d hear people, time and time again, talk about how we need to, ‘Cut the budget, cut the budget, cut the budget.’ And now, some of the same people that are telling us to cut the budget are saying,
‘Well, not that budget,’” Dunne said.
The assembly compromised and decided to close solid waste facilities one day a week from November to March and stay open seven days a week in the spring, summer and fall.
Funding for entities outside borough government saw debate, as well. The administration proposed continuing funding for Kenai Peninsula College, the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council, Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District and Central Area Rural Transit System. Assembly Member Dale Bagley made the case that the money is well spent.
“I would say just about every municipality in the United States of America spends money on economic development, public transportation, small businesses and tourism,” Bagley said. “And a lot of them actually have departments — they pay staff to promote these things. And I think the way we use nonprofits is a very conservative and economical approach to doing these issues for our government.”
The $50,000 budgeted for CARTS, a nonprofit transit program based in Soldotna, came under fire. Assembly members said they have concerns about management and the fact that CARTS focuses on only the central peninsula. That budget was cut altogether.
After the budget vote, many of the assembly members thanked the administration for its work in slimming down.
“We did do some large cuts with the combination of Purchasing and Project Management,” Bagley said. “And I know that every department that came before us had belt-tightening and cuts. They went through a very long process.”
The fiscal year 2017 general fund budget comes in at just under $80 million. With the cuts, appropriations are still up about 2.2 percent from the previous year’s budget. For comparison, the fiscal year 2016 budget was 5.8 percent higher than its predecessor.