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Council Approves Adjustments to Budget Thanks to Revenue Surplus

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Image Courtesy of the City of Homer
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City of Homer

The Homer City Council found themselves in an unusual position this spring — having more money than expected.

The Homer City Council found themselves in an unusual position this spring — having more money than expected. The council approved amendments to the operating budget at Monday's meeting allocating an anticipated $3.8 million surplus for FY22 from sales tax revenue and $4.2 million in FY23.
City workers will now receive a 7% cost of living adjustment, and three new staff positions will be added. Other funds will go to various departments and enterprise funds throughout the city, while the remaining surplus will remain unassigned in the general fund balance.

Matt Clarke, deputy harbormaster, testified Monday in support of the increase to staff salaries, saying he has struggled to fill positions, especially the seasonal ones.

"Over the last few years we have found it increasingly difficult to attract employees to our job postings," Clarke said.

Clarke added that private sector wages are high, even for entry level positions.

"I just wanted to say how important it is to consider the cost of living adjustment that the city manager has included in the mid-biennium budget proposal before you as it will help us go a long way to attract employees to the positions we are advertising for," Clarke said.

Del Masterhan, fish dock supervisor, echoed Clarke's sentiment, saying he hasn't been able to attract anyone to positions at the fish dock and ice plant, in part because seasonal workers are having a hard time finding housing.

The budget adjustments passed with few comments from the city council, but Mayor Ken Castner noted that the council takes its job of allocating revenues from property sales very seriously.

"In order for the city to grow, we have to increase capacity," Castner said.

"If we can't increase capacity then we're going to whither on the vine."

In other news, the city council discussed concerns raised by community members about smoke from slash burning operations at construction sites this spring. Discussions are underway to update the city code and process for administering burn permits, but city staff said they expect the process to take time and include meetings with stakeholders, such as those in the construction field.

During the committee of the whole meeting, city staff discussed current burning rules, which include restrictions on the size of burn piles but don't deal with the amount of smoke a fire creates. Slash piles that are burned hotter produce less smoke, but those piles have to be monitored more closely, which doesn't always happen on construction and development sites. The city has considered ideas such as stump grinders, but those raise questions as well as piles of mulch can create dangerous fire conditions if lit.

• The city council approved an appropriation of $30,000 to develop a design for an accessible fishing platform at the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon.

• City Manager Rob Dumouchel reported that the Main Street sidewalk design has been completed and is currently accepting bids. Construction should start on the project, which will install a sidewalk on the west side of Main Street from the Homer Theatre to Dehl Avenue by Bayview Park, in early June with completion by Oct. 31.

The council will meet next on April 25.