Budget cuts total $1.3 million

• Proposed 2010 city budget eliminates Monday library hours, closes Kachemak Bay’s West Campus

By Naomi Klouda
Homer Tribune

budgetWhen the Homer City Council receives its draft of the 2010 city budget, they will find $1.3 million in cuts that proposes not giving money to the town’s non-profits, no Monday hours at the library and closing the old public school building to the Boys and Girls Club.
Homer City Manager Walt Wrede hands off his draft 2010 budget to council members later this week. Budget talks start at Monday’s council meetings and will continue through February before it is finalized.
The cuts mean a lower quality of life for Homer residents, Wrede contends, with the city no longer able to staff police and fire around the clock seven days a week.
“The city is facing a steep reduction in sales tax revenue caused primarily by the downturn in the economy and the sales tax exemption for non-prepared foods approved by the voters in a Borough ballot proposition last year,” Wrede announced Tuesday morning in a press release.
The finance department is projecting at least a $600,000 revenue shortfall in the current fiscal year. In order to avoid large cost overruns this year, the city administration identified and implemented approximately $570,000 in expenditure reductions, mostly by leaving vacant positions unfilled. The City has also placed on hold the purchase of new equipment that was approved and budgeted but not yet acquired, Wrede wrote.
The 2010 budget is nearly $3 million less than the 2008 budget. In 2008, the city handled a $12.9 million budget that lopped down to $11.2 million in 2009 . The draft budget for the coming year is another $1.3 million less than 2009’s at less than $10 million.
“Yes, we have been in the process over the past two years, anticipating what might happen with the economy and anticipating what the impact might be of the food tax exemption, but so far we’ve been able to make cuts that the public probably didn’t notice,” Wrede said. They did this by reducing the city’s contributions to depreciation on enterprise fund accounts and by not filling positions as they became vacant.
“But this one is important because it cuts into the bone. We’re eliminating entire programs like community schools and funding for the Homer Foundation and non profits,” he said Tuesday morning.
What isn’t known at this point is whether fourth quarter sales tax revenue will be higher or even less than projected. Another unknown is how the Oct. 6 ballot prop on the grocery tax exemption is going to swing with voters. If voters chose to reinstate a year-round grocery tax, another $600,000 would go back into the budget, Wrede said.
Homer isn’t doing as well compared to other towns on the Kenai Peninsula, Wrede believes. “Compared to cities (in the States), we’re falling in line and not as bad off – we aren’t issuing IOU’s yet. We’re not closing buildings, though that could be the next step. But other Kenai cities are doing better than we are. They kept their grocery sales tax and have those big box stores,” he said.
Now is the time for the public to pay attention and stay involved in budget talks, Wrede said. “It’s time to take part in the budget discussions. I want them to have an honest dialogue about what they want to see in city services. This is a very important time.”
Wrede stated that he “deeply regrets having to inform the council and the community that the spending reductions contained in the Draft 2010 Budget will seriously impact the quality of life, health and public safety, and overall level of services that Homer residents currently enjoy.”
The draft budget will be discussed in detail at both the Committee of the Whole and the Regular Council meetings Monday.

Budget highlights:
• The Draft FY 2010 General Fund Budget is less than $10 million; a cut of approximately 10 percent over 2009.
• The draft budget eliminates funding for 8.5 city positions, including 2.5 at the Police Department, 2.5 at Public Works, and 1 at the Fire Department. This will result in significant reductions in street, parks, sidewalks, landscaping (flowers), and trails maintenance. Round the clock coverage seven days a week at the Police and Fire Departments is no longer possible.
• The Library will close on Mondays.
• There is no funding for new capital projects. The old intermediate school building housing the College West Campus and the Boys and Girls Club will be closed beginning Jan. 1.
• The Community Schools Program is not funded and will be terminated in February after completion of the winter schedule.
• There is no funding for non-profits other than the Pratt Museum whose contribution is reduced by $20,000.

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Posted by on Sep 9th, 2009 and filed under Headline News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

7 Responses for “Budget cuts total $1.3 million”

  1. Concerned Citizen says:

    These budget cuts could reflect a possible million-plus dollar suit against the city by a former fire department employee. This arbitration is occurring the 9th and 10th of september at city hall. Poor management of the city and its officials NEEDS TO END NOW!

    • Beth P says:

      This is news to me. It is embarrassing for our city to put itself in this position. Why have they kept it secret to the public that they could potentially be paying this money out?

    • Worried Citizen says:

      **Edited to remove references to specific individuals included in allegations.**

      The former employee deserves every bit he wins,in damages from the City. City Management has, for many years, covered up wrong doings by the Directors. Example: More than one employee has gone to the management with documented evidence against one employee…this has included proof of lies and trumped-up evidence against employees…it has all been covered by upper management. Council is aware of the problem – they don’t want to deal with it. Perhaps, if these issues had been dealt with, we wouldn’t be looking at a lawsuit now.

      The current budget shortfall should never have happened. Management knew they would have a large reduction in sales tax. So, why did city employees get a COLA raise? Why hasn’t spending been reduced? Why hasn’t the City been working on a limited budget since the beginning of the year? Maybe, its because management spends more time on pet projects. Why are finance employees having to read Disney management books and give book reports on their chapters – all on city time? Why was an audit called on payroll last year and then kept secret until a former employee forced the city to release the findings? Was it because thousands of dollars were spent to show that nothing was wrong and her allegations against a current employee were false? And finally, why do we have an accounting employee that doesn’t even have a degree in accounting, and has, instead, been taking “accounting” classes at Phoenix University – and the city taxpayers are paying for a good part of the cost.

      Proper management of the each department and the city as a whole needs to be a priority for the council. Lets see if they can do it and use our tax dollars wisely.

  2. Susan Tyler says:

    Can you back up these allegations you make? Hiding behind the wall of anonymity doesn’t give you the right to speak untruths. The city has been making cuts for the past three years – didn’t you read the article?

  3. Recovering Homeroid says:

    You know what the simple solution is.

    Roll HVFD out of the city and into KES. City can shrink their budget, HVFD will be under good management and you won’t have this island in the middle of the KES service area.

    HVFD isn’t the 101st in Bastone after all.

    KES has I estimate four times the volunter base HVFD current, mainly because HVFD didn’t treat their volunteers like volunteers. Funny thing about volunteers, if they think they are getting a raw deal they walk. Make it more of a hassle then it is worth, they walk. What this has translated into is a continuous need for HVFD to call for mutual aid on calls in their service area because the lack the manpower to handle multiple calls and significant fires such as that east hill tri-plex a few weeks ago.

    And if you see the guy who is appealing is sacking get his job back, look for that department drop even more personell, he was that incompetent.

  4. Jason says:

    It’s well past time for the city to take a hard look at the operation and management of our fire department. As citizens of Homer and Kachemak city relying on and paying for emergency service we all should expect and demand better from the agency charged with providing that service. When departments become as dysfunctional as HVFD new leadership must be brought in, something the city has not yet committed to doing. Unfortunately even with new leadership the Homer fire department will still have a tough road, over the years the current administration has driven away so many quality people that it will take years for HVFD to recover.

    It has become truly sad to listen to the Homer fire department respond to emergencies – there’s almost no one left. Response times are increasing and all too often there multiple pages to try and locate minimum crews. For a while now Homer has been trying to compensate for the loss of volunteers by having staff cover more of the off hours emergency calls. In January when the “vacant” Assistant Chief’s position is eliminated and the extra contract position is ended this will no doubt become more difficult.

    When Kachemak Emergency Services ended the contract with Homer did it hurt Homers budget? Sure! And right now having Kachemak Emergency Services operating and providing emergency services independent of HVFD is the best thing that the residents of the entire southern peninsula, including Homer, have going for them. KESA has pulled together over four dozen volunteers, and don’t believe for a second that because the department is new that the volunteers are inexperienced-in fact it’s the opposite, many of them have years of experience.

    Many of KESA’s volunteers live and work in and around Homer and are available on a moments notice. KESA has already shown that it is ready and willing to help when HVFD is overwhelmed, but it can only happen if Homers chief allows that call for help to be made, something chief has made it known that he is opposed to. I sincerely hope that no one is unfortunate enough to find out first hand that he is gambling with their lives.

    As for the former fire department employee, he never should have been retained-be thankful he’s gone. Unfortunately I suspect the ineptitude of the fire chief will again show, the former employee will win, and the residents of the city will be left paying out for this mess as well.

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