This story published in the Peninsula Clarion.

Springtime is a time for local governments to work on the next year’s budget, and despite a global pandemic, the Kenai Peninsula Borough staff is working on the fiscal year 2021 budget.

Mayor Charlie Pierce — who has quarantined himself at home since arriving in Alaska after an out-of-state trip a week ago — told the Clarion Thursday that the borough’s budget will take an “unanticipated hit” because of the new coronavirus.

Pierce said his administration is evaluating what impacts COVID-19 will have. Pierce said the borough could experience a 30-60% “negative impact” in sales tax revenue because of the global pandemic. He said the borough is in the process of developing better projections as information becomes available.

Over the last several years, Pierce said there’s been a “considerable amount of effort” to contain costs in the borough to bring the budget down. He said the borough is currently sitting on approximately $26.9 million in fund balance. That number could drop to $16 million by the end of next fiscal year, he said.

Borough staff are working from home and those in the office are practicing guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including keeping desks physically 6 feet apart and sanitizing surfaces, Pierce said.

Pierce said he hopes the state can come through with a stimulus package and encouraged people to be patient and follow rules set in place by the CDC and state government.

“It’s not worth picking up exposure to (COVID-19),” Pierce said. “Stay hunkered down until health care providers give indication it’s safe. This could be an extended and lengthy shutdown.”

Residents have to rely on each other, friends and neighbors, Pierce said.
“These are trying times,” Pierce said. “It’s very challenging for all of us.”

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