The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Heidi Zemach
For The LOG 

Borough Mayor Navarre visits with Seward area citizens


Stephanie Presley

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre speaks with Seward Parks and Recreation Director Karin Sturdy Feb 13, in the KPB Seward Annex at Sea View Plaza.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre spent Feb. 13 in Seward, talking with local residents about various issues of concern. Probably 15-20 people stopped by the KPB annex office in Sea View Plaza office to see the mayor throughout the morning and afternoon. He was accompanied by KPB Human Resources Director Stormy Brown. Navarre also had lunch at the Seward Senior Center and said he enjoyed talking with the senior citizens there.

The KPB mayor’s position is a full-time position, and he often gets too busy in the borough seat in Soldotna to find the time to travel across the vast district to talk with folks in the Seward area, he said. But the amount of interest he experienced last week was a good reminder to him of the need to do so, said Navarre. He promised to make an even more concerted effort to make it over here on a more regular basis so that people can have better access to their mayor, and so that he can learn what they’re thinking.

“We do have a close relationship with the City folks,” he said. City Mayor David Seaward stopped by to visit him in at the borough annex, he said. And Navarre had repeatedly crossed paths with Seward City Manager Jim Hunt and Assistant Manager Ron Long, an old colleague of his on the assembly, in Juneau during the days before his visit. Borough Assembly Representative Sue McClure also does a “great job” of keeping people informed on borough news in her assembly reports and reports to the council, he said. She also reflects her constituents concerns to him and the borough assembly.

Except for the annual assembly meetings held in Seward, when the mayor comes here, it has been to deal with flooding issues, he said. This visit he also heard concerns about education, the fire station, and even a few city issues.

Some in the Bear Creek Fire Service Area talked about the construction of the new Bear Creek fire station, and about operations there. Three or four people, including a few members of the Seward Site-Based Council, and Kenai Peninsula School Board Representative Lynn Hohl, stopped in to talk about education concerns, mostly to do with funding, facilities, and maintaining staffing levels at Seward Middle School, he said.

The borough is just beginning its budgeting process for education funding in the upcoming year. Funding the KPB School District is paramount as it takes up by far the greatest portion of the borough budget, and also is their greatest need, Navarre said. Last year the assembly approved $43 million for education. This year they plan to fund schools at at least the same level, and possibly more.

“I’m sure I’ll be recommending an increase, I just don’t know by how much,” said Navarre. Ultimately the decision will be up to the assembly, he said.

The borough is not looking at a borough-wide mill rate increase to fund education in the upcoming fiscal year, although there may be targeted service district property tax increases of between a quarter of a mill to a mill in the The Seward/Bear Creek Flood Service Area to fund flood mitigation projects.

Putting together a figure with which to offer to fund the school district is a tricky process as there are still so many unknowns, said Navarre. The assembly is working on its budget at the same time that the board of education is working on its own budget projections, without knowing with any certainty what the state contribution to education funding will be, he said. The state legislature has provided only flat funding for the student based foundation formula allocation for the past four years, but has added one-time contributions for things such as operations, buildings and transportation. Those are political decisions that typically come later in the session, he said. The amount of education funding needed also may be affected by the outcome of ongoing contract negotiations over the school district educator’s salary and benefits. Meanwhile borough employee contract negotiations also are underway, which will impact the assembly’s overall budget, said Navarre.

Navarre has also been holding hearings with the various service areas throughout the Peninsula, discussing their capital needs, and putting together the road service area budget.

“I just want to thank everybody who stopped by to see me in Seward, and I’ll make every effort to get back again,” said Navarre.


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