The Kenai City Council will raise the mill rate from 3.85 to 4.35, costing property owners an extra $50 per year on a $100,000 property.
Councillor Brian Gabriel had proposed 19 amendments, which would have kept the mill rate flat and provided a $54,000 surplus. He introduced 16, but only three of those amendments were approved, despite many having the support of the City Administration…
Cm. Gabriel: “We had several meetings. I know one meeting I met with him at like 6:30 and had a 3-hour meeting that time, sort of roughed in an outline of things we wanted to look at and that was sort of a starting point. And then we met again, and then through the phone and emails tried to firm up some of the other amendments that we proposed, or I guess I proposed, but all together it was probably 6 or 7 hours each.”
Gabriel said his primary concern is for next year, when increases in healthcare costs will put pressure on the City’s finances. He said it would have been more prudent to save money this year and consider a rate rise next year.
Councillors Marquis, Bookey and Boyle voted against all but one amendment. Bookey “reluctantly” supported removing a pay raise for Council members, saving $19,200.
Cm. Bookey: “This budget as proposed has been out there for a couple of months now. I have received no calls, I have received no correspondence from citizens with concern about the budget. There was no body here to testify on the budget today. We had a tremendous amount of discussion during work session moving up to this point. I think that we passed a reasonable and responsible budget that gives the citizens of the City of Kenai value for their tax dollars.”
Gabriel’s three amendments ended up cutting close to $52,000 from the budget, but Councillor Navarre added $5,000 for planning and zoning training, and Councillor Bookey added an $80,000 park improvement plan, cancelling out the cuts and forcing a rate rise.
Councillor Boyle explained his perspective…
Cm. Boyle: “Well I have heard people say that they think the services the City provides versus the mill rate are very good. Excellent services. They’re not paying a lot of money. Not everyone feels that way, but a lot of people do feel that way. We have a low mill rate versus the services that are provided.
Cm. Boyle: “I don’t think raising the mill rate would be a hardship on most people, so if we must in order to make the budget, then I would support it.”
Councillor Gabriel said the decision was disheartening since some items, like the $75,000 City Hall Roof Replacement project, were ruled to be not necessary…
Cm. Gabriel: “Through the process of discussing with Mr. Koch items we could pull out of the budget, during that period of time he had a consultant look at the roof and determine that it was good for another five years.”
Gabriel’s 19 amendments would have cut the budget by $333,153.50. Councillor Bookey stood by his decision…
Cm. Bookey: “I think the lack of folks showing up today on probably the most important decision we make of the year signifies that they approve of what we’re doing. They believe that what we’ve done and what we did tonight was reasonable and responsible.”
You can view the full list of amendments on pages 26-27 of this document: Kenai City Council June 4. Amendments #1, #2 and #14 were approved. #14 will be paid for through the City’s Equipment Replacement Fund.