By Jenny Neyman
Given the state’s fiscal crisis in the wake of low oil prices, it’s time for local governments to tighten their belts, but not so tight, Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre says, that it cuts off circulation.
“We have to make sure we have a plan. We don’t need to just look at where we’re at right now and overreact and panic,” Navarre said. “What we need to do is look at where we want to be five years from now and 10 from now, and put the tools in place and make the decisions now to help us get there.”
Navarre was one of the speakers at the annual Industry Outlook Forum held in Kenai last month. The borough is already feeling impacts of the state’s budget-cutting — capital funding from the state has declined from $15 million in fiscal year 2014 to $113,000 in fiscal year 2016 — and should expect more cuts to come.
Meanwhile, the borough has been tightening its spending, as well. Navarre said that, even though the peninsula’s population is increasing, the borough has seen a net loss of job positions since 1998, outside of education and public safety. He said that finances have been managed conservatively so that there is a fund balance in all borough budgets, including service areas. Additionally, the borough has the ability to raise its revenues, through tax increases, to compensate for state cuts, but Navarre said he doesn’t want to see things come to that.
“We’re already seeing a slowdown in the economy, and, so, it’s not really a good time to load taxes on anybody. Nobody likes to see tax increases,” he said.