Wrede submits ‘treading water’ budget to council

At the Homer City Council on Monday, the council put on its agenda the most important item of the year: setting the fiscal year 2013 budget. 

Homer City Manager Walt Wrede submitted the budget this week and the first public hearing was held. The council will make adjustments over the next three months, including proposed deletions and additions. By law, the council has to pass a balanced budget by Dec. 21.

The draft budget of $25.3 million dollars includes $11 million in general funds, primarily for personnel, operations and maintenance.

“This can basically be described as a ‘status quo’ or ‘treading water’ budget,” Wrede wrote in a memo with the budget.

The budget is close to balanced, with $25.1 million in projected revenues. The challenge to the council is to make the numbers match, either through budget cuts or better revenue projections later.

Wrede didn’t include these items:

• Cost of living allowance, or COLAs, wage increases to city employees, the fourth year without a COLA;

• No new hires, including filling vacant positions, such as a police dispatcher;

• Depreciation except for revolving energy fund, seawall maintenance and fleet reserves;

• Moving the Community recreation program into the Homer Education and Recreational Complex building;

• Nonprofits except as funded in 2012. The Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center and the Pratt Museum have asked for a budget increase. Homer Senior Citizens Inc. also has asked for  $50,000 budget allocation, Wrede said.

At the Committee of the Whole meeting, Wrede and finance director Regina Mauras gave the council an overview of the budget. One of the biggest expenses is $11.3 million in personnel costs. 

As private companies and other public agencies know, increasing health care costs have made meeting a payroll more expensive. The city employee committee has been meeting to address these costs, and the city’s insurance broker is looking at the city health plan for ways to reduce health insurance costs. The 2013 budget adds $200,000 to the city Health Insurance Fund. 

The city insurance broker has suggested ideas that could cut insurance costs, such as increasing deductibles, increasing the out-of-pocket maximum, adding an office visit copay and increasing the drug copay, about $150,000 in savings.

Council member Francie Roberts noted that the $150,000 savings is about the same as a 1-percent COLA of $120,000. If the city saved $150,000, maybe the savings could be passed on to employees as a wage increase.

“That’s a trade off employees would find appealing, COLA versus changes in the health care plan,” Wrede said. “Neither of those is good news.”

Wrede said balancing the personnel budget is tough for him. “On the one hand you want to reward employees what they’re worth,” he said. “As a manager trying to run a business, these costs are just crippling us.”

The 253-page draft 2013 budget is available online through the city’s website at www.cityofhomer-ak.gov or at City Hall.

More in News

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks at a press conference on the budget on April 7, 2020, in Juneau, Alaska. He later met with reporters to speak about 22 new COVID-19 cases reported on Tuesday. (Photo by Austin McDaniel/Office of the Governor)
Alaska sees surge in COVID-19 cases;No new deaths or hospitalizations

As a public service to keep people informed on the COVID-19 pandemic,… Continue reading

COVID-19. (Courtesy the CDC)
Sixth COVID-19 death reported for Alaska

Editor’s note: As a public service to keep people informed on the… Continue reading

The budget is passed and lawmakers have gone home

Now, it’s time to wait and see.

Nathan Simpson of Dutch Boy Landscaping on Nov. 14, 2019, installs colored lights on the tree by Homer Electric Association in Homer, Alaska. The big tree by HEA is one of Homer’s landmark holiday decorated trees. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Candidates announced for HEA board elections

Completed mail-in ballots must be received by 5 p.m. on May 6, 2020 in order to be counted.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy (center) speaks with Edward Graham (left) of Samaritan’s Purse as two other Samaritan’s Purse staff members look on, Monday, April 6, 2020 at Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage, Alaska. Dunleavy met the crew and staff of the Samaritan’s Purse DC-8 at the airport as they offloaded thousands of pounds of medical supplies bound for rural Alaska. (Photo courtesy Office of the Governor)
4th COVID-19 case reported in Soldotna

As a public service to keep people informed on the COVID-19 pandemic,… Continue reading

Aspen Hotel chain Owner George Swift cuts a ribbon officially opening the most recent building in Homer, Alaska, during a grand opening ceremony on May 29, 2019. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Trends: Tourism industry takes hit from COVID-19

‘Completely decimated travel in Alaska’

COVID-19. (Courtesy the CDC)
Anchor Point man dies out of state from COVID-19

A resident of Anchor Point has died from COVID-19, the illness caused… Continue reading

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks during a Friday, April 3, 2020 press conference in the Atwood Building in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Office of the Governor)
State recommends wearing face coverings in public

Number of Kenai Peninsula cases grows to 10; state tally rises to 157

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink participates via teleconference in the state’s daily press briefing on the new coronavirus on Monday, March 30, 2020. (Courtesy photo)
State changes website, COVID-19 reporting

Seward reports second COVID-19 case

Most Read