Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 12:43 PM on Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Council gets first look at proposed budget

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer

The Homer City Council got a look at the city's preliminary budget for Fiscal Year 2012 during the council's regular meeting Monday.

General fund revenues total $10,787,080, with the expenditure/expenses totaling $10,782,862.

"The first thing you have in your budget that's most important are the 2012 budget amendment forms. As you find changes and you want to add or subtract dollars from the budget, this is the form you use," Regina Mauras, finance director, told the council, reminding them to keep a balanced budget in mind.

Mayor James Hornaday underscored Mauras' reminder by recalling council members' agreed-upon rule is that if they want to increase the budget somewhere, they are responsible for finding the needed funds.

The budget will next be discussed by the council during a Committee of the Whole meeting at 5 p.m. Oct. 24.

The public was excluded from two executive sessions of the council called during a special meeting earlier in the day Monday. The first one addressed the city lobbyist contract; the second one dealt with legal issues regarding the seawall.

The stated reason for calling the executive session to discuss the lobbyist contract was that "immediate knowledge of which would clearly have an adverse effect upon the finances of the government unit and subjects that tend to prejudice the reputation and character of any person, provided the person may request a public discussion." The second session was called because "immediate knowledge of which would clearly have an adverse effect upon the finances of the government unit and attorney/client privilege."

Once the council chamber doors reopened for the Committee of the Whole and the council's regular meeting Monday evening, council members heard from advocates of the Boys & Girls Club, the Pratt Museum and the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center during a public hearing on the city budget.

Addressing the needs of the Boys & Girls Club, which is currently housed in a city-owned building, Kelly Cooper said a task force is being formed to explore avenues for making the club sustainable. She requested Hornaday appoint a council member to serve on that task force, an opportunity for which council member Barbara Howard volunteered.

Diane Converse, director of the Pratt Museum, said an independent study showed the museum has an estimated $1 million economic impact to the area. She urged the council to "maintain city funding at the current level" and, "if at all possible, restore some of it from prior years."

Philip Alderfer also spoke in favor of continued appropriations for the Pratt.

"I'm not here to talk about the important role the museum has in keeping the city's archives. And I'm not here to talk about the role the museum has as supplementary education," said Alderfer. "What I'm here to talk about is the role of the Pratt specifically ... as an economic engine."

Holly Van Pelt, president of the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center's board of directors, asked for funding from the city "so we can market Homer. The money we use in marketing gets multiplied many times through the leverage we have through various associations and volunteers and through name recognition and the website we have."

"Help us help Homer grow," said Bob Letson, a board member of the chamber and visitor center.

Bill Smith, who represents the city of Homer on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly and was re-elected to that position in the Oct. 4 municipal election, reported on a recent meeting he and Borough Mayor David Carey had with Gov. Sean Parnell. Smith was specifically invited by Carey to speak with the governor on efforts to bring a natural gas pipeline from Anchor Point to Homer and Kachemak City. Smith said he told Parnell that Homer was identifying a core area to be affected by the pipeline, how a line through the central part of the city would be financed and of work being done with Enstar Natural Gas Co.

"The governor did say he liked the things that had been done and thought it was moving in the right direction," said Smith. "He didn't say he'd put it in his budget, but he didn't say he wouldn't. It wouldn't hurt if people write to him and told him we could sure use that gas line."

Having won their bid for re-election during the Oct. 4 municipal election, council members Barbara Howard and David Lewis will be sworn in at a special meeting of the council at 6 p.m. Monday. The next regular meeting of the council is Oct. 24.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.