Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 4:15 PM on Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Seawall district's 2012 mill rate set

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer

Seawall 2012 mill rate set in city council special meeting

By McKibben Jackinsky

Staff writer

Just hours ahead of a June 15 deadline, the Homer City Council held a special meeting Thursday to set the 2012 mill rate for the Ocean Drive Loop Special Service District.

Resolution 12-051 attempted to set the annual mill rate failed to pass during the council's regular meeting June 11, with council members Bryan Zak and Beau Burgess voting against it and Barbara Howard not present. The following day, Burgess moved to reconsider, with the Thursday meeting scheduled.

"My reason for bringing this back for reconsideration is not because I want to change my position. My position is that (the city) fundamentally needs a new position ... or say this is not our problem," Burgess said of wanting to city to make clear who was responsible for repairs and upkeep of a seawall built to halt erosion within the special service district.

The special service district was formed in 2006 as a vehicle for funding services to properties in the Ocean Drive Loop Bluff Erosion Control Improvement District, where the seawall was constructed. In 2010, the Ocean Drive Loop Special Service District was abolished, but was recreated in 2011 to provide service to properties along the seawall to include operation, maintenance, repair, reconstruction, improvement, insurance and administration needed to make and keep the seawall operational. The district is funded by a property tax levied on the property owners within the district, with the mill rate to be set no later than June 15.

Burgess took exception to a mill rate based on the borough's property assessments.

"It should be by lineal footage, not property value," said Burgess, whose motion to reconsider was approved on a five-to-one vote, with Zak voting against it.

Don McNamara and Donna Rae Faulkner testified at both the June 11 and the Thursday meetings that they have, in good faith, made repairs to their section of the seawall to the tune of $15,000. Therefore, they requested the city remove them from the special service district.

Property owner John Szajkowski criticized the resolution for a different reason.

"At least one property is assessed incorrectly. My property," said Szajkowski.

Findlay Abbott testified the mill rate being proposed "isn't going to take care of the problems. ... We've been through a real lucky period where we haven't had sustained westerlies causing big damage, so the gravel level has been staying high, but by fall we might see something very different."

Findlay suggested the use of armor rock and a coastal trail in the area to help stabilize the bluff.

Accompanying Resolution 12-051 was a spreadsheet that included property owners within the district, parcel numbers, assessed property values and a mill rate necessary to reach the $30,000 seawall damages are estimated to cost this year. It was a revised version of one distributed at the June 11 meeting that inadvertently did not include all property owners within the district. After rechecking the data against the borough rolls, Regina Mauras, the city's finance director, adjusted the Szajkowskis' assessment to match borough data.

While the new spreadsheet included the McNamara-Faulkner property, it did not include an assessment for it. An ordinance is being prepared for the city council's June 25 meeting that, if passed, will remove that property from the special service district, said City Manager Walt Wrede.

"What the council has always wanted is for everybody to live up to what they thought the agreements were, that property owners who have the wall on their private property would maintain it and pay for the repairs," said Wrede. "(McNamara and Faulkner) have been doing that and told the Army Corps of Engineers they were willing to have the permit to maintain that portion of the wall transferred to them. That's exactly what the council wants."

The resolution, with a mill rate of 9.6283, passed on a four-to-two vote, with Burgess and Zak voting against it.

"I looked over the spreadsheet and you have again our assessment wrong, but more importantly, you have almost everybody's assessment wrong," said Szajkowski, referring to lack of consideration given for full-time resident and senior citizen property tax exemptions offered by the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

Mauras said those exemptions aren't automatically given and the city has no way of knowing who does and who doesn't receive them.

Wrede said he expected the city would not collect the full $30,000.

"We'll just work within the budget we have," he said. "Right now we've got some reserves. Back in the fall (the city council) appropriated $60,000 and we've only spent half of that, so we have some money there, a little cushion, and we'll wait and see how much actually comes in with the taxes."

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@h