• Proposed 2010 city budget eliminates Monday library hours, closes Kachemak Bay’s West Campus
By Naomi Klouda
When 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.
• 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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