It’s budgeting season at the city of Homer once again, and Homer City Council members devoted much of their time at a meeting Monday fleshing out amendments to the 2019 budget.
Among those amendments was one brought forward by council member Rachel Lord to increase the cost of living adjustment for city employees by half a percent. This same increase was approved by the council during last year’s budget discussions, after lengthy debate by council members.
Adding the cost of living adjustment will take $46,110 from the General, Water and Sewer, and Port and Harbor funds.
“In light of, you know, we have good sales tax returns, our property tax returns are good, our income is fairly stable and … we’re in a fairly good financial space … I believe that it is good fiscal policy to maintain a wage scale that is in line with inflation over time,” Lord said.
Lord said she believes it’s important for the city, as an employer, to provide a “wage scale that will move as what a dollar buys you changes.”
Matt Clark, chair of the Employee Committee, spoke to the council about Lord’s budget amendment before council members discussed it. He said members of the committee feel that small, incremental increases to the cost of living adjustment are easier for the city to plan for, as opposed to larger percent increases spaced several years apart.
Among several other amendments to the budget was an allocation of $15,000 for a pay station to be placed at the Public Works RV dump site on the Homer Spit. Proposed by council member Shelly Erickson, the amendment stipulates that $7,500 will come from the Sewer Reserves fund and $7,500 from the Water Reserves fund.
Erickson explained that, currently, the dump station operates under a by-donation system. There is no way to account for who is paying to use the city service and who is not. Council members also commented that the dump station gets expensive to maintain when RV users abuse it, causing Public Works employees to go in and clean it out.
“This is one way to kind of recoup our cost, and it also puts us in line with other communities that … also have dump stations they are charging for,” Erickson said.
The budget amendment will pay for the pay station itself, a printer and security accessories. The station comes with a two-year warranty and will cost $95 a month for connecting with AT&T, according to the budget amendment request form Erickson filled out.
Council members also voted Monday to raise the fee for using the dump site to $15, to offset the cost of maintaining it.
Another amendment to the budget made Monday will move $250,000 of surplus left over from 2017 from the general fund balance to the city’s fund for building the new police station. The amendment was brought forward by Heath Smith.
Council member Donna Aderhold, who was participating telephonically, objected to moving that large of an amount of money into a single fund. She voted against its inclusion in the 2019 budget. Lord voted for the amendment, but did comment that the city needs better guidelines.
“I think it’s a really important discussion that we need to have,” Lord said. ” … We don’t have a fund balance policy that we’re working under. So we have kind of general guidelines that the city manager’s utilizing, and I feel good about those, I feel comfortable about those. But where our reserve accounts are, where our unassigned fund balance is … we don’t have good guidelines right now through which we’re operating.”
There’s another change to comment on the 2019 budget before the council adopts it. It will be up for public hearing and a vote at the council’s Dec. 10 meeting.