Assembly Adopts Borough Budget

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

After a series of late nights and long meetings, the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly finally adopted its Fiscal Year 2016 Budget last Thursday at its regular meeting. General Manager Bud Cassidy says it’s not only a financial document, but also a statement of the Assembly’s philosophy.

“That philosophy is that education is a priority as well as non-profit funding, health care, economic development," says Cassidy. "Making lands available to young families is also a priority, affordable housing is a priority. Keeping the mill rate is important, but probably the big thing is the need to keep our multi-million dollar investment in public facilities up to snuff."

Cassidy says they hope to extend the structures’ life spans with their investment in those buildings. Assemblyman Dan Rohrer also notes the Assembly was able to able to increase the millage rate for the education support fund.

“Although with this substituted budget, we haven’t made it all the way there as far as what the school district has requested from us, I am pleased that we’ve at least gotten to the point where, of the $585,000 we were short-funding them from what they requested before, we were able to find at this point $240,000 of that,” says Rohrer.
 
The Assembly discussed a further amendment to the ordinance that would use money from the borough’s general fund for the Kodiak Island School District. Assemblyman Dan Rohrer spoke in opposition of the amendment, which he says would raise the usage of the fund balance, or unspent money from the previous year, to an all-time high.

“I’m very, very much in favor of education, but I’m more in support of having a balanced budget that is sustainable,” says Rohrer. “When I ran for election, I ran on financially sustainable Kodiak and I think in the economic times that we have in front of us, having the Kodiak Island Borough project to spend $921,000 of our fund balance is not prudent and it’s not sustainable.”

He says he is willing to increase funding to the Kodiak Island Borough School District if it’s accompanied by other cuts. Assemblywoman Carol Austerman spoke in favor of the amendment.

“I am hopeful that the school district will do their due diligence and it’s possible that maybe they won’t even need of all this money if the state does come back and funds them more than they’re expecting at this moment, but I think that while this is not an ideal situation for the borough, it is even less of an ideal situation for the school district,” says Austerman.

The Assembly carried the motion 5 to 1 in favor of the amendment with Rohrer voting against it. Rohrer then introduced an additional amendment to cut five categories. He suggested a Manager’s Office reduction of one unfilled staff position, a legal services reduction, the removal of the economic development summit, the removal of the contract services from Parks and Recreation for repair and replacement of borough-owned parks, and a reduction of Kodiak College’s financial gift.

“The biggest ones are the Kodiak College, the Parks and Rec, and the economic development,” Rohrer says. “I don’t like cutting any of those three, but I don’t see any other option. My point tonight is that if we choose to spend money in one area, you have to cut it in another area. And again, that’s the reality of writing a budget.”

Assemblyman Larry LeDoux says turning to the borough’s fund balance is not ideal.

“Because if you don’t have the money the following year, you’re going to find it through taxes, so it is very, very dangerous,” says LeDoux. “And I say this simply because from my perspective, because I don’t know the impact of these cuts even though I support them, I’m relying on the manager to make sure that we meet our fund balance goals, and I believe he’s in the best position to do it.”

LeDoux says given proper warning and discussion, he would support every one of the cuts next year. The Assembly voted against that added amendment.

The Borough Assembly’s next work session is scheduled for Thursday, June 11 and its next regular meeting for next Thursday, June 18.

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