By Peter Zuyus
In Mayor Mike Navarre’s announcement to run for re-election, he made several statements that are audacious at best, and surely attempt to deflect poor management by the Borough; all under the guise of “it’s the seniors’ fault” that KPB service areas are in need of additional funding.
On Feb. 25, 2014, the mayor said, “seniors use emergency services more than any other group, but they’re exempt from paying for them.” He said if he doesn’t evaluate that area of the budget, the burden is going to “shift to other demographics.” In other words, it’s the seniors’ fault.
Is this another slap at seniors or poor political advice? Either way, it’s an odd way to start a political campaign. Let’s set the record straight on facts vs political rhetoric.
Fact: Seniors (65 plus) are covered by Medicare.
Fact: Medicare pays for medically necessary transport to hospitals or emergency care facilities when billed. (Source Medicare.gov)
The mayor can simply direct the borough finance department to bill Medicare for the emergency services. It is not difficult and will reduce the service area tax burden on all residents. If Mayor Navarre is not comfortable doing this on his own, I am quite sure the assembly would support him on the issue. It does not need a department or a committee, just a directive to the borough finance director.
In addition, Medicaid pays for medically necessary transport to hospitals or emergency care facilities when billed. (Source- medicaid.gov).
Most health insurance policies pay for medically necessary transport, and now that we have Obamacare, by law, everyone must have insurance.
Fact: The borough can bill for all emergency service and reduce the overall tax burden on all residents. There are only two reasons for not billing; 1. poor management, or 2. financial malfeasance.
Mr. Mayor, the first reaction should not be to blame seniors, blame residents and raise taxes. You have the reins of leadership and can fix the perceived problem with your pen.
Manage finances, reduce taxes and reduce rhetoric.
Now, in addition to seniors, the blame for budget shortfalls is also being put on Kenai Peninsula Borough residents voting to raise the residential tax exemption to $50,000.
The KPB is not losing revenue; residents voted to keep their own money. The $1.5 million the borough will use to offset the exemption raise is not excess revenue, it is excess collection of taxes from residents. It is not the mayor’s or the borough’s money. It is excess tax collected from borough residents. KPB residents voted to reduce their taxes and keep their hard-earned money. Budgets reflect future spending projections; propose less and spend less. It is not magic, it is management.
Fact: It is the job of the mayor and the borough to manage borough finances and support and honor the will of the people.
The will of the people is clear: Embrace it, support it and move forward.
(Additional comments can be found at KPBSeniors.com)
Peter Zuyus is a Homer-area resident and former telecommunications executive.
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