Homer drafts budget for fiscal year 2018

It’s budget season once again, and city of Homer residents still have time to weigh in on said budget before it’s locked in.

The Homer City Council discussed its 2018 draft budget for the city during a committee of the whole meeting before its Oct. 9 regular meeting. Unlike the state of Alaska and the Kenai Peninsula Borough, which have a July 1-June 30 fiscal year, the city of Homer uses a Jan. 1-Dec. 31 fiscal year.

The city’s revenue increase for the FY18 budget is modest, and is based on numbers from FY16 and year-to-date revenue the city has gotten so far in 2017. Total revenues for the General Fund are projected to increase by $219,969 or 1.8 percent over the 2017 budget, according to the draft FY18 budget documents. The largest chunk of that increase is predicted to be in the area of charges for services, which includes things like ambulance billing. Revenue from camping fees is up $44,000 from the 2017 budget, according to the draft budget.

“It’s a very status quo budget,” City Manager Katie Koester told council members at the Oct. 9 meeting. “Not always the case, but we were really able to keep a handle on growth, and of course that’s going to be important as we look at tight fiscal times in 2019.”

Koester said that in drafting the FY18 budget, she did not assume any growth in sales tax revenue.

“The reason I did that is because I feel like we’ve been very fortunate, we’ve had very robust years of growth for sales tax,” she told the council. “… But the Kenai Peninsula Borough as a whole is actually (seeing) declining sales, and I feel like just holding onto the beans that we have will probably be a win for the city.”

The FY18 budget does not include any new city personnel, nor a cost of living increase for city employees. The draft budget does, however, predict a 15 percent increase in heath insurance premiums. Koester said in an email that the public will have a few upcoming chances to weigh in on the budget before it’s finalized.

“There will be a public hearing on the budget at every meeting from now until the budget is adopted, the first meeting in December,” she wrote.

Those next three meetings are being held on Oct. 30, Nov. 27 and Dec. 11. Residents can also email their comments or concerns, if they’re directed at the entire council, to clerk@cityofhomer-ak.gov, Koester wrote.

“Public is welcome to email me with any questions they have on the budget and I will do my best to get them the information or refer them to someone who can help,” she wrote.

Contact Koester at citymanager@cityofhomer-ak.gov. Community members can find the contacts for individual council members at https://www.cityofhomer-ak.gov/citycouncil/meet-council. Council members also have some opportunities to make their own suggestions for the budget before it’s passed.

“Council members can submit a budget amendment at any meeting,” Koester wrote. “There is a budget amendment form that they have all been given that indicates the increase or decrease, where the money will come from/go to and justification.”

Members aren’t required to submit that form, Koester said, but it is helpful for the public and staff because it lets them follow the council member’s intent. Council members can also make amendments to the budget at the council table, Koester said.

“There is no deadline for amendments, however by City Code the budget must be adopted no less than 10 days prior to the end of year,” she wrote. “Traditionally it is adopted the first meeting in December and there is not (a) second meeting in December.”

View the draft budget at cityofhomer-ak.gov/citymanager/city-homers-draft-2018-budget-released.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@homernews.com.