Generally Homer city government hums along quietly in the background. The library buzzes with activity six days a week, the Homer Education and Recreation Complex (HERC) livens evenings with pickle ball, when you need a policeman he’s there.
But what would Homer be like without these simple things we take for granted? What if you popped over to the library after work on Tuesday evening only to find the parking lot empty and the building locked and dark? What if the HERC was closed and shuttered? What would happen to Homer’s quality of life without these valuable amenities?
The City of Homer is asking city residents to go to the polls once again on December 1 to vote on Proposition 1, which will decide how we fund our city government in 2016. I know, I know, it’s the third month in a row with an election. Each vote is important, though, so mark your calendar now and set up a reminder.
A “yes” vote on Proposition 1 will suspend the HART fund for up to 3 years, which will allow city administration and city council time to develop a longer-term solution to funding city government because of lost revenue sources from the state.
So, what the heck is the HART fund, you ask?
Three-quarters of 1 percent of your City of Homer sales tax currently goes to the Homer Accelerated Roads and Trails (HART) fund that is restricted for road (0.5 percent) and trail (0.25 percent) capital projects. The fund was established in 1987 to upgrade critical infrastructure.
If the proposition passes, HART taxes, anticipated to be about $1 million per year, will be redirected to the general fund for up to three years. The money currently in the HART fund will remain available for road and trail capital projects. If you vote yes on Proposition 1 your city taxes stay exactly the same, the current restricted tax funds are just redirected for general purposes for a limited time.
City administration is meeting residents halfway with the 2016 budget by proposing $725,000 in cuts (known as Budget A), but without the suspension of HART funds the budget cuts are much deeper (Budget B). The most visible changes if Proposition 1 does not pass: reduced library hours (read no more evenings and Saturdays), closed HERC, one less police officer (meaning longer response times to calls), and slower winter road maintenance. Hard working city employees will lose their jobs or reduce their hours.
Not passing Proposition 1 to redirect HART funds will affect our local economy in many small ways.
Learn more about Proposition 1 and proposed budgets A and B by visiting the City of Homer’s web page: http://www.cityofhomer-ak.gov/citymanager/proposition-1-suspension-hart. City administration also has set up a budget tool that you can use to try to balance the budget yourself: http://www.cityofhomer-ak.gov/citymanager/budget-breakdown-budget-tool-online-survey. And while you’re there, fill out the online budget survey.
If you still have questions about Proposition 1, the city’s 2016 budget, or the HART fund, ask a city council member, the mayor, or the city manager. We all want to hear your views and provide information. Vote on December 1; absentee voting began November 16.
Donna Aderhold was elected to serve on the Homer City Council in October. You can reach her at DonnaAderhold@ci.homer.ak.us.