Fiscal note measure aims to make borough more transparent, says sponsor

The Kenai Peninsula Borough has adopted a permanent policy aimed at making the legislative process more transparent.

Ordinances and resolutions up for adoption will require a fiscal note describing the financial impact the legislation will have on the borough. 

It will be the responsibility of the sponsor to work with the finance department to develop the note.

Assembly member Wayne Ogle introduced the measure, which was approved by the assembly at its April 7 meeting.

Members Mako Haggerty and Brent Johnson said they thought the policy would be unnecessary and redundant.

“It’s not about us,” Ogle said. “It’s about people being informed.”

Having requirements for fiscal notes codified facilitates transparency in government, Ogle said. Not only does it help the assembly members make more informed decisions, but the public will have access to more details, he said.

A fiscal note is the best estimate from the finance department as to what the true cost will be for an ordinance, Ogle said.

Providing the estimate of an ordinance can shape public opinion, Ogle said. A fiscal note was “instrumental in helping people decide how they were going to vote on the vote-by-mail,” advisory vote put before borough residents on the 2014 ballot, he said.

It was shown that the overall expense of elections would go up for the borough, when it was originally believed vote-by-mail only would be more cost effective, Ogle said.

Anything exceeding more than $5,000 in one fiscal year will require a note. The documentation must also show the impact over the next two years following the year after adoption, according to the policy.

The new policy was preceded by a resolution adopted in May of 2013, according to the resolution. The original policy was set for a one-year “trial basis,” and expired on June 30, 2014.

Prior to the trial policy, the borough did not have a process that showed the financial consequence of the legislation up for consideration, according to the original resolution.

Ogle said he was under the impression the assembly had forgotten the original policy had a sunset clause and that it had lapsed.

Borough Mayor Mike Navarre said the borough’s financial process is already quite transparent, and further developing that will not be an issue.

“It won’t be a burden for us,” Navarre said. “We will do it.”

Kelly Sullivan is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.