Council passes 2020 — and 2021 — budgets

At its last regular meeting of 2019, the Homer City Council passed one of its most important actions for the next year — and for 2021. In unanimous consent, and for the first time ever, the council passed Ordinance 19-51, approving a two-year budget for both the 2020 and 2021 years.

The two-year budget adds another accomplishment by City Manager Katie Koester, who in a Dec. 9 letter gave her official 60-day notice that she is resigning to take a job with the City and Borough of Juneau.

For 2020, including $12,475,341 in the general fund, the council appropriated a budget of $23,932,854. For 2021, and including $12,891,790 in the general fund, the council appropriated $24,150,873. The city uses a calendar year fiscal year. Property and sales taxes support the general fund, and the water fund, sewer fund and port/harbor fund are what’s called enterprise funds, or funds supported by revenues such as as moorage fees.

The budget includes $879,298 for capital projects in 2020 and $64,000 for capital projects in 2021.

“We have a budget,” said Homer City Clerk Melissa Jacobsen upon the council’s action.

Homer Mayor Ken Castner praised the council for moving to a budget cycle that spans two years instead of one, as had been done up to this point.

“I for the record want to say ‘thank you’ for adoption of the two-year budget,” he said. “This is a big step for the city and I’m really happy to have this as an accomplishment.

Concurrent to the budget, the council also passed resolutions setting up fee and fine schedules.

The council made modest budget amendments since the budget was introduced on Oct. 28, including a new police officer position and new work stations for police dispatchers. At Monday’s meeting, council member Rachel Lord moved to appropriate another $20,000 for a Homer Spit Parking Study. That came in response to a failed conditional use permit application by the city to expand the Seafarer’s Memorial parking lot.

In his report to the council, Homer Planning Commission Chair Franco Venuti reported that the commission voted to deny that permit application.

“Please understand the seasonal parking problem on the Spit has not gone away with our decision,” Venuti said.

Lord said a parking study is needed to devise solutions for better managing parking on the Spit. The Seafarer’s Memorial parking lot expansion had been proposed to add more spaces in a high-traffic area of the Spit near the Cannery Row Boardwalk, but opponents said it would damage one of the few wild beaches left on the Spit.

“It’s lightly managed,” Lord said of Spit parking. “We have very little paved parking. We have a lot of parking that’s unpaved and unstriped. … How can we better manage the parking on the Spit? If the community doesn’t have an interest in more parking, how can we better manage the parking we have?”

Council member Joey Evensen said he had concerns about the parking study and what the city would get for it. Council member Heath Smith said the appropriation was only to fund the study, and parameters would be set up as part of requests for proposals.

“We’re not going to throw $20,000 on the table and hope they come back with something useful,” Smith said. “… This is just putting aside the money in order to do it. There will be plenty of time to decide the scope.”

The council also passed Ordinance 19-53 that made some technical amendments to the single-use plastic bag ban passed by voters. The ordinance clarified that single-use plastic bags were less than 2.5 mils thick. A mil is 1/1,000th of an inch, or about the thickness of a human hair. It also set dates of Jan. 1 to Feb. 14, 2020, in which retailers can use up existing stocks of single-use plastic bags.

The council also passed Ordinance 19-54(S)(A) to appropriate up to $50,000 to develop a Wayfinding-Streetscape plan for the city. Wayfinding-Streetscape planning is an urban design concept that helps orient people in a downtown area, makes them more pedestrian friendly, walkable, and safer, and adds improvements like public gathering or resting areas.

The council next meets at 5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 16, in a special meeting at the Cowles Council Chambers to discuss the process for selecting and hiring a new city manager to replace Koester. Its next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Jan. 13, 2020.

Reach Michael Armstrong at marmstrong@homernews.com.

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