In the UPS world we have many safety catch phrases that must be committed to memory and, more importantly, incorporated into our everyday work methods.
“Avoiding Slips and Falls” is one such category that has five elements; one of which is “adjust to changing conditions.” Implying that as conditions change, make appropriate adjustments or gravity wins the day!
I think it is clear that the fiscal conditions of our State, Borough and City have all changed, and without knowing the full implications of what has yet to change puts us in a position of seriously considering where and how to adjust — so we don’t fall…or, in some cases, don’t fall any further!
On the October ballot city residents will be asked whether the HART (Homer Accelerated Road and Trails) fund can include road and trail maintenance in its defined uses. While HART has facilitated important road and trail development over the years, we have seen a marked decline in the use of these tax dollars. The fund today sits at nearly $6 million. With annual earnings of approximately $1.1 million it is anticipated this “adjustment” would allow the city council the flexibility to shift around $600-700,000 from general fund obligations, leaving roughly $400-500,000 to be added to the existing corpus of the HART fund for critical roads and trails projects.
Some are concerned that this will negatively impact future development of roads and trails. The reminder I would offer is that with every new road or trail development there are associated ongoing costs that our current budget cannot endure — unless we start including the additional maintenance costs in the HARTs defined uses.
Others may question why we just don’t make additional cuts in order to achieve sustainability in our budget. I personally believe there are areas that could be restructured that would help, but the seated council has to have the political will to make such moves — as currently constituted, that’s unlikely.
After paying down debt, adjusting other areas of the budget, and realizing increased sales tax revenues we still face a budget deficit. We have to face the realities that surround the numbers.
I want us to use the tax dollars we collect to the best benefit of our city residents, which I believe means we adjust how we use what we already have in place. Our tax burden will likely increase with what is happening at all levels of government within the state. We owe it to ourselves to provide our city council the flexibility to prioritize, and maximize, the tax dollars we already collect.
Please Vote YES on the City of Homer’s Proposition 1.
Heath Smith is a resident of Homer.