Story last updated at 1:12 p.m. Thursday, September 19, 2002

Homer cost of living high
by Carey James
Staff Writer

While voters mull over the idea of taxing groceries, a recent study by the University of Alaska Fairbanks' Cooperative Extension Service identifies significant disparity between the cost of a basket of food in Anchorage and the cost in Homer.

A family of four with school-age children should expect to pay $40 more for a week's worth of food in Homer than in Anchorage, and around $20 more than central Kenai Peninsula residents.

The study compared the cost of a specific set of 104 food and non-food items. The items were selected from the United States Department of Agriculture Low-cost Food Plan, which is based on a nationwide survey of eating habits of Americans. The study also compared the cost of utilities.

In Homer, the cost of the groceries was $139.77 for a family of four, while in Anchorage, the cost was $100.19. Kenai and Soldotna pay $118.

Two other communities with comparable costs to Homer were Craig and Kodiak, both of which are off the state's road system. Juneau, Sitka, Valdez and Ketchikan were all significantly less expensive than Homer.

Grocery costs compared to Anchorage are currently 39 percent higher in Homer, up from two years ago, when they were 29 percent higher than Alaska's largest city. In 1999, however, Homer's groceries cost 48 percent more than Anchorage's.

In utilities, Homer area residents paid $118. 93 for electricity ($5 more than Anchorage) and $94.55 for 55 gallons of unleaded gas ($13 more than Anchorage.) Homer does, however, have a lower cost for propane than Anchorage, the study showed.

Overall, the most expensive place surveyed is the Western Alaska coastal community of Hooper Bay, where groceries cost $231.43, with Bethel coming in second-highest at $190.58. Portland paid $88.84.

In conducting the survey, up to three stores were included. Local sales tax was included in the costs.

Carey James can be reached at cjames@homernews.com.

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