Lowe: Balanced budget key to city’s success

Determining the city budget will be one of the priorities to focus on this fall. Ultimately all city council considerations are centered in fiscal responsibility. A balanced budget with prudent utilization of city funds is the backbone of our success.
Hand-in-hand with developing a budget will be recruiting a new city manager and developing a transition plan in order to lessen the impacts of Walt Wrede’s departure at the end of December.
An aspect of the budget that has a lot of potential for discussion moving forward is community members who live outside city limits. I am not proposing any solutions at this time; a community-wide exploration and discussion regarding different approaches and ideas will be crucial. Two examples where collaborating as a larger community has value are:
• Recreation. When I consider city needs beyond the official core services I recognize that creativity and sensitivity is required. Few people are enthusiastic about the idea of increase in any form of taxation, while many would like to see a stronger recreation/community resources department. We have a great challenge and opportunity to develop a path forward.
• Fire and Emergency Services. Planning a combined Public Safety building allows efficiency as two departments will be able to share resources. Similarly the city and Kachemak Emergency Services can develop a closer administrative collaboration that will reduce duplication of services and equipment.
The Port and Harbor is a key economic driver for Homer. Fiscally sound opportunities to strengthen this exist short term with the Large Vessel Haul-out and long term with harbor expansion and Deep Water Dock enhancements. Currently freighters carry their loads right past us, and then charge extra to deliver it by road from Anchorage. Reducing shipping costs will benefit individuals and businesses across town.
Economic boosts will be realized by those directly servicing these new harbor customers and by attracting extra dollars that will circulate throughout the community multiple times.
It is imperative to plan so that harbor growth will not negatively impact our natural resources or the livelihoods of our commercial and charter fishing fleet, water taxis and kayak guides amongst many others.
Perhaps the Tidal Energy Incubator Project will gain traction and develop into a viable local energy option.
Homer is a community that attracts new people and where people chose to stay. Every individual has a unique list of the particular aspects of Homer that they cherish and value. Many of those lists include the diversity of recreational opportunities here. Overtime collaborations and partnerships have developed to provide this range of activities, often times the city is involved in some way as a partner.
Recreation is one component of a healthy community. MAPP is a successful and varied group of local organizations and individuals that the city has worked with in order to enhance community health and quality of life through strategic planning. One low-cost, high impact success story is the Green Dot program.
I am honored to have this opportunity to work towards strengthening, enriching and sustaining our home.