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Assembly approves budget

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The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly passed its $71 million budget Wednesday morning after several hours of public testimony and discussion.

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The assembly approved the budget after being forced to adjourn at midnight on Tuesday on a 7-1 vote with assembly vice president Charlie Pierce voting against it. Assembly member Ray Tauriainen was absent for the vote.

The assembly spent most of its time debating the fate of its non-departmental agencies like the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council, Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District, Small Business Development Center, and the Central Area Rural Transit System.

Ultimately all were reinstated into the budget and funded, although funding levels to two organizations were trimmed.

KPTMC received $300,000 in funding after an 8-1 vote and after several residents involved in the tourism industry testified in favor of it.

Assembly member Brent Johnson said he would support the organization only this year.

“Next year, there needs to be some funding mechanism in place,” he said. “I can’t continually support it. I see that the borough’s funds are sliding and I think we are not quite balancing the budget this year by doing this.”

Assembly member Linda Murphy said she fully supported KPTMC.

“This is certainly something that we can legally provide in support of tourism marketing and I think we have an obligation to provide that because when our economy and when our small businesses are healthy, we all benefit,” she said.

Tauriainen said he was going to suggest a reduction in funding for the organization, but couldn’t land on a number.

“The question is, is it spending, or is it stimulus?” he said. “And in this case, I believe it is stimulus. I don’t believe that every dollar we put into it we get over $4 back — in that case we should fund it $10 million … I don’t know what the right amount is. But, I think it is right to not cut it off at the knees and I think it does help our economy overall by funding it.”

EDD was proposed to receive $50,000 in funding, but Johnson made a motion to trim that amount to show he wanted all the non-departmentals to find other ways to fund themselves.

The motion passed, 5-4, cutting the funding by $10,000 to a total of $40,000.

“I think one way to get that message across very seriously is to start nicking them a little and that is the object of this one,” he said.

CARTS was also proposed to receive $50,000, but assembly member Mako Haggerty proposed cutting that funding in half.

The motion to fund the organization with $25,000 passed, 8-1.

“We have heard very little from them this year and I would like to see exactly how they are funded, where it is coming from, and where it is going to,” Haggerty said. “I’d like to, for lack of a better word, see them clean up their act.”

Funding for the Kenai Peninsula College was kept in the budget, which totaled $657,791.

Funding for the capital projects director position also remained in the budget. Borough Mayor David Carey previously recommended both items for deletion by the assembly to help achieve a balanced budget.

However, Carey recommended Tuesday the assembly not remove the capital projects director position, despite a possible savings of $44,321.

“We are going to come back and we are going to talk about some reorganization and some different things,” he said.

The assembly also withdrew a motion to increase revenue sharing from the state currently included in the capital budget in front of Gov. Sean Parnell.

Carey warned the assembly to not count their “chickens before they hatch.”

“It would seem to me premature to approve this before we have the money coming from the state and signed by the governor to add this money to our budget,” he said.

The assembly unanimously approved closing all borough landfill and transfer stations on Sundays between the start of October and the end of April for a cost savings of $127,956.

Assembly president Gary Knopp also moved to remove the funding for the special assistant to the mayor position — a decrease in salary of $82,745 per year.

“This is a position in the mayor’s department I feel has kind of run its course,” he said.

The assembly unanimously approved the measure.

Smalley also moved the assembly boost funding for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District by $1 million to cover a rise in the transportation contract costs, but the measure failed, 2-7.

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