Borough trims employees, travel to cut back expenses

Most departments in the borough are looking at budget cuts in the upcoming fiscal year in personnel, supplies, contracts or other assorted expenses.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly began the long process of walking through the fiscal year 2019 budget Monday, with hearings continuing all day Tuesday. Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce has proposed a budget with $81.7 million in general fund expenditures, with total government expenditures budgeted at $142.5 million. Some departments, like Central Emergency Services and the borough Assessing Department, will get more full-time staff under the proposed budget, but most departments are cutting expenses this year.

The mayor’s budget proposes about $976,000 in cuts to general fund expenses and a one-time transfer of $4.5 million from the land trust fund, said borough Finance Director Brandi Harbaugh in a presentation to the assembly on Tuesday. The land trust withdrawal would be paid back over time, half in 2020 and half in 2021, she said.

One of the main considerations at play this budget cycle is keeping the borough’s fund balance above the minimum required amount of $15 million. The fund balance has steadily decreased over the last four years, Harbaugh said.

“$15 million isn’t a lot,” she said. “It certainly doesn’t allow us to reflect all of our commitments on our balance sheet.”

Overall expenses are down about $183,827 in the proposed budget, and the general fund contribution to the Solid Waste department is down $242,431 “due to an overall tightening of expenditures,” according to the budget.

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