Homer Alaska - Elections

Story last updated at 5:05 PM on Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wythe: Fiscal responsibility needed



It has been a privilege to represent you for the past eight years on the Homer City Council. In that time I have continually worked to improve the financial integrity of our community through resolutions that direct excess revenues into both the general reserve and depreciation reserve funds. As a result, Homer has developed a general reserve fund balance that is consistent with the Government Accounting Standards Boards (GASB) recommendations, while reducing the budget and property taxes. Maintaining a fiscally responsible reserve provides a cushion that the City can rely on without increasing tax rates in a tight economy.

I proposed establishing the Homer Permanent Fund using money from the Exxon Valdez settlement. A portion of the Fund earnings can be allocated to the general fund to help with growing expenses, while the other earnings are allocated to help the fund continue to grow, providing benefits for future generations.

In the nearly 40 years that I have lived in Homer there are two things that remain constant. We continue to grow and most people wish the gate letting more people in would have closed behind them.

Reality is that this is a beautiful place to live and the continued influx of residents is not going to stop any time soon. As we grow it is important to focus on developing a vital and sustainable economy. For this reason, I encouraged the Council to re-activate the Economic Development Commission. The Commission is working to develop an "open for business" attitude for Homer, and needs to focus on encouraging forms of commerce that are compatible with our location and provide quality employment opportunities at income levels consistent with the cost of living in Homer.

The Council needs to continue working to establish a balance between social and primary services. A continual desire for the City to fund non-profit organizations and other social services creates a direct conflict with the demand for lower taxes. The City, as a business entity, has a single source of revenue and that is tax dollars. The primary services provided through the City, as a governmental entity, are road maintenance and life-safety services (police and fire protection). I am not opposed to helping non-profits as they are large contributors to our community and way of life; however, when there are barely enough funds to provide primary services, funding non-profits presents a difficulty.

Water & Sewer, and Port & Harbor services are also provided by the City, but are intended to be sustained by the users. The location of Homer's water source makes the system expensive to operate and maintain, complicated by the small number of customers. A plan needs to be developed to close the gap between rates and system operating expenses. The primary need is to add more customers without adding additional infrastructure, but growth is required to make this happen. The Port & Harbor is on track for some much needed repairs and that work needs to continue.

Bringing natural gas to Homer has long been a topic of discussion. My hope is that the reality can live up to the dream. It is important that the Council take every precaution to make sure the projected costs to the community are not understated.

The time has come for Homer to move forward without depending on State and Federal funding. This will continue to present plenty of challenges and I am prepared to apply what I have learned in my years on the Council to help the City remain fiscally responsible and find cost effective solutions for future financial needs.