It is with a deep sense of regret that I find it necessary to veto Ordinance 09-22(A)(S)(A) and Resolutions 09-47(A) and 09-48(S)(A). Although I respect the various views expressed, the vetoes are required in my view for the following reasons:
Although water and sewer rates have been under Council discussion for a number of months, in my view the citizens of Homer are not sufficiently aware of the proposed increases as we are now basically into the summer season and citizens are involved in numerous other activities—graduations, ball games, fishing, travel—and many who depend on the summer season for substantial revenue to enable them to get through the winter are not aware of the proposed water and sewer increases.
I believe that, at the least, the matter should be postponed for additional public hearings until the fall to enable more citizen input. I do not recall any reason given for why these rate increases must go into effect this summer. The current proposal is not the recommendation of the Administration and the Administration has mixed views on the proposal. The Administration has advised they see no real problem if the current rates remain in effect at this time. In fact there would be no serious effects in the near future if the current rates remain in effect.
The Enterprise Fund should be paying for itself, but in reality, there have been a number of grants and funding arrangements beyond the funds from the revenues from the fund. Further, we have a very good relationship with Kachemak City and it was pointed out that the residents of Kachemak City are not aware of the proposed increases. Surely, the residents of Kachemak City should have notice and opportunity to be heard.
The City of Homer has the only large volume of water available to citizens in the area. Raising the water and sewer rates of the vast majority of the citizens in these difficult times is, in my mind, the last approach that the Council should utilize, especially when the figures show Homer water and sewer rates are already much higher than those in other communities. Homer residents pay the highest taxes in the Borough. The State population figures show that Homer lost 200 plus residents in the last year. Homer is reeling from the general increases in energy and other costs, the huge increase in electric bills, substantial increased property assessments and an increase in sales tax rates by the Borough. (Homer is currently the only city in the Borough that does not tax groceries.) The elderly on small fixed incomes are especially hard hit—at least one elderly woman had to give up her apartment.
People are leaving Homer because they cannot afford to live here. Some of our citizens have to choose between paying utility bills and food and medicine. Young families are also suffering. Non-profits and government agencies using substantial amounts of water and sewer services will also be adversely affected. Both the young and elderly are telling me they cannot afford to live in Homer. Half of our good city employees do not live in Homer.
Several business owners testified that the disproportionate burden on businesses will have adverse effects that will reverberate throughout the community such as serious consideration for reducing staff and cutting back on business activities. Business owners have advised they pay more for water and sewer than for heating fuel. One businessman is utilizing sea water pumps on the Spit rather than use City water. In my view these increases have the effect of driving businesses and residents away from Homer when added to the other huge increases in the basic costs of living in this community. Other reasons for the vetoes include, but are not limited to: no rebate for in city bulk users; a suggestion to apply the depreciation funding was not adequately discussed. Beautiful Homer by the sea, where the land ends and sea begins deserves better than these water and sewer rate increases at this time.
Homer Mayor Jim Hornaday is serving his third term as mayor.
Comments are closed