At 7:30 p.m. today in the borough building, the Kodiak City Council will discuss a proposal to raise the city’s sales tax and the maximum taxable amount per item.
The proposal will draw plenty of fire from opponents, and on Saturday, the city council spent almost six hours considering the grounds of the upcoming budget battle.
During the Saturday work session, city finance director Mary Munk and city manager Aimée Kniaziowski presented a $35 million operating budget to council members, stating that although the proposal is balanced, it relies heavily on reserves to achieve that balance.
“This is a very conservative budget,” Kniaziowski said. “We’ve held the line — we’ve done more than that.”
Spending has been cut 7 percent, or $2.6 million, from the current year’s budget.
“I can’t say it often enough,” said Mayor Pat Branson. “We don’t spend money frivolously.”
Forty-one percent of the budget, or about $14 million, pays salaries and benefits for the city’s 120 full-time employees and several part-time workers. One of three city employees works for the Kodiak Police Department, by far the largest city branch. As defined by the budget, the fire department is the second-largest city branch, with the equivalent of 13.75 full-time employees.
Public works has 9.5 full-time employees (FTE), but that figure does not include the city’s engineering department (2 FTE), water utility (6.6 FTE) or sewer utility (9.35 FTE).
The harbor office operates with 11.4 FTE, but that does not include two employees who operate the boat yard lift and three employees dedicated to the cargo terminal.
Only one new employee — a human resources director — was added in the budget.
“The city has been completely without the addition of an HR person for 15 years,” Kniaziowski said. “That has put us in a very difficult situation.”
Statewide, other governments have similar numbers of employees, with variations according to their populations. Homer, with a population of 5,000 people — Kodiak’s population is just over 6,100 — has a budget of $21.1 million and employs the equivalent of 110.84 full-time employees.
Ketchikan, with a population of 8,050, has a budget of $102 million and employs 176.81 FTE. Kenai, which has a population of 7,100, has a budget of $22.6 million and 114.54 FTE.
“I think the community doesn’t always appreciate how much we get done with how little,” Branson said. “It’s very, very lean.”
Though “lean,” the $35 million proposal presented Saturday did not include funding for capital projects.
Some projects, including the replacement of water and sewer lines in the Aleutian Homes neighborhood, are being funded mostly through state grants awaiting approval by the governor and are listed in the budget as a matter of balancing the books. Others, such as dam safety inspections and patching streets, will be funded by the city’s enterprise savings accounts, which are filled by residents’ water bills.
But there are a few capital projects, including the demolition of the old police station and a new retaining wall along Mission Road, not being paid for by grants. Money for those projects will have to be included in the city budget, and it will be up to the city council to determine which, if any, are funded.
“Absolutely we can pick and choose,” Branson said. “The council can decide if they don’t want to do something.”
Branson said she and the city council have received “lots of suggestions” since the budget process began, and she has asked the city’s budget staff to incorporate as many as possible.
“It’s not going to be a done deal next week or the week after that,” she said. “We have to look at everything.”