Homer Alaska - Business

Story last updated at 6:53 PM on Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Navarre: Things are going well

By Michael Armstrong
Staff Writer



Seven months into his second time as the Kenai Peninsula Borough's chief executive, Mayor Mike Navarre spoke to the Homer Chamber of Commerce on his accomplishments so far. Delivering his "state of the borough" address, Navarre cited these highlights:

• Working with the city of Homer, Kachemak City and the Alaska Legislature to fund building a natural gas distribution line from Anchor Point to Homer;

• Helping to get state funding to rebuild the Homer High School track;

• Proposing a "status quo" borough budget; and

• Establishing a stable tax policy to fund the budget.

Navarre spoke Tuesday at the chamber's monthly luncheon at Wasabi's to about 25 people. He's open to communicating to borough citizens and has set up a borough Facebook page that links from the borough website. Navarre will take emails and phone calls, but he doesn't do text messages well, he admitted.

"If you want somebody good at that, you need to elect a 13-year-old mayor," he said, joking.

The natural gas line will have tremendous impact, Navarre said, including on the borough budget for facilities like South Peninsula Hospital and Homer area schools.

"We're going to have significant savings, probably to the amount of $1 million," he said.

That kind of savings will be needed in balancing the borough's budget. Unlike other candidates, in his campaign Navarre said he didn't make the promise of cutting taxes and the budget.

"What I said is I would do a responsible budget," he said.

Candidates often say they'll cut the budget, but what usually happens is the budget rises anyway. For the borough's next budget, Navarre said he delivered what he calls a status-quo budget, one that keeps funding generally the same, but accounts for negotiated increases in borough employee costs and increases in health insurance costs.

"I also wanted to make sure we had the highest funding of education," Navarre said.

Because of how the state calculates its support of education funding to local school districts, the borough got $3 million more this year than last year, Navarre said. That allowed the borough to cut the school district budget slightly while still leaving it with plenty of money, he said.

The borough also has a stable tax policy, Navarre said.

"We have a stable tax base and our taxes are not too high," he said.

One concern is increasing health cost for borough employees as well as residents.

"The ever increasing cost of health care is not sustainable," Navarre said. "My broader goal is to reduce health care costs for everybody across the peninsula."

In terms of borough grants to support senior centers and programs, Navarre noted how the U.S. Census estimated a growing senior population in the Homer area. Borough grants went up $133,000, he said.

"I think things are going well," Navarre said of the borough.

In response to some questions, when asked about funding for the Kenai Peninsula Tourism and Marketing Council, Navarre said he proposed a $60,000 reduction.

Another question was asked about composting at the former Homer landfill, now being remodeled into a transfer site. The borough was able to get approval to have part of the project used for composting of material like grass clippings and brush clearing. Recycling also will continue. One glitch with recycling is that the baler has broken. Now used to compress household waste into bales for the landfill, the baler also is used to compress recycling like cardboard. When the transfer site is done, that will be the baler's main use. Parts have been ordered to repair the baler, and he hopes it can be repaired soon, Navarre said.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.