On a narrow 4-3 vote, the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly passed a budget last week.
The budget hotpoints concerned funding for Kodiak College, nonprofits, new assessing software, facilities maintenance (called “R&R”, or “renewal and replacement”) and, of course, the possibility of a mill rate increase, which did not sit well with assembly member Aimee Williams.
“I love that we’re funding the college. I love that we’re funding nonprofits. I do see why R&R is important. The only hiccup I see is the mill rate increase. And I think we can provide good government and fund out individual departments appropriately without the mill rate increase.”
The approved budget includes a higher allocation of $100,000 to Kodiak College, up from $50,000 last year, in order to fund college programs for lower-income students. Kodiak College Director Jacelyn Keys provided testimony about how such investment helped her.
“Someone saw something in me and gave me a scholarship to go to college, and that’s how I got out. That $500 changed my stars. And I’ve spent my professional career and my volunteer career trying to create opportunities so that other kids can change their stars.”
Also included was the restoration of $170,000 in non-profit funding, which has been shrinking in over the past few years. Some assembly members, such as Julie Kavanaugh, objected to this funding at the expense of other borough services.
“Some of these decisions are kind of funding preferences that are taking precedence over general services that we are supposed to provide the public. That’s a little bit bothersome to me.”
The $8.1 million general fund budget approved for next year is a slight decrease from this year’s $8.8 million budget.
In the end, no area-wide property tax increase was needed, even though assembly members Duane Dvorak and Geoff Smith were ready to entertain that option. Property taxes have held steady in the borough since 2013 as assessed values have doubled since 2004.
The Assembly is hopeful that the state will reimburse at least 50% of the bond debt payment, which the assembly plans to plug into the budget later, as assembly member Scott Arndt explains.
“If we get more, we’ve obligated another, by what was passed two weeks ago, another $634,845 to the Kodiak Island Borough School District. We’ve obligated that. But that still leaves major amount of money for potential R&R.”
In all, the entire borough budget, including education, health, debt, solid waste, and all the service districts, will amount to $43 million.