Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 9:47 PM on Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Proposed borough budget cuts short sighted

By Bryan Zak

On the Kenai Peninsula, we care about our businesses, schools, hospitals, churches, families and we value each and every citizen. These are the institutions that form our communities. We've demonstrated this through the communities we've built.

Alaskans are known for our ability to work together through crises. We look after neighbors' kids when their families can't. At the Small Business Development Center, we help small businesses understand and reduce the risk of forming small businesses, which in turn creates jobs, infuse capital and become the foundations of our local economies.

Other non-departmentals help seniors with rides and meals so they can live in their own homes longer.

The Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council markets our borough in a very competitive tourism industry resulting in an infusion of dollars. The Economic Development District works together with business owners, legislators and citizens to build strong and resilient economic foundations. We do this and more because we know that by building the systems to do these things, we build the foundations for healthy communities and a strong middle class.

Currently, this foundation is threatened, and citizens borough wide need to be concerned. The proposed cuts to non-departmentals come up every year at borough budget time, but this time they are too deep. These cuts will hurt all of us, and all of our communities.

Our small businesses will be less resilient in the face of the challenges posed by everyday life. The proposed cuts are deep cuts to the already bare-bones support the borough currently provides to the non-departmentals. The borough is in effect slaying the goose to get the golden eggs of one year's savings, thereby giving up jobs, capital infusion, and the leveraged returns that result from their community partnering.

We have other, better, longer-term options. It's too soon to uproot the foundations we've laid. Assembly members should first take every step possible to find efficiencies in the system, use available resources and consider additional revenue options.

Where should we start?

1. Collect what is owed: Ramp up enforcement and collection of delinquent tax payments.

2. Work smarter, implement change to reduce the cost of doing business such as the numbers of pages that we still print vs. using electronic files.

3. It's raining: We have stability funds and rainy-day accounts for moments just like this. We need to use the resources we have available to help meet today's needs.

4. Innovate: Enable further improvements to service delivery. Continued focus on this will create savings and efficiencies.

5. Keep an open mind about revenue solutions. We are recovering from an unprecedented economic crisis. While we appreciate the significant progress that our elected leaders have made to develop a budget in these tough times, much more is needed. We must work together to ensure that businesses, children and families, our neighbors, have a strong foundation for their lives.

Let's work together and harder to write a budget that reflects the borough's true priorities.

Bryan Zak is the region director for the Small Business Development Center, which serves the Kenai Peninsula. He is also serves on the Homer City Council.

Editor's Note: For related story, please turn to the Real Estate and Business section, Page 1.