The State of Alaska, and virtually all cities and boroughs in the state, utilize a “fiscal year” for setting their budgets that starts on July 1 and runs through June 30 of the next year. The Federal Government uses yet a different fiscal year, starting in October.* And then there’s the City of Homer, which seems almost alone with a fiscal year that coincides with the calendar year.
At Monday night’s Homer City Council meeting, the move to a July 1 Fiscal Year was debated, after the introduction of the idea by Councilmember Heath Smith.
Though supported by new City Manager Rob Dumouchel, he said it would be a lot of work, and hoped the council would support the administration with extra resources when needed.
“You know, bringing on a brand new hire is going to, it's going to have a big impact, but with this project. Again, I think it's probably something we need outside help with. And I don't a hundred percent know what that looks like yet. So we've started to kind of ask some of those questions,” Dumouchel said. “Cause we gotta go through practical things. Like we have a specific financial software, so we've started a conversation with them about how do we transition. What does that look like? What kind of dollars would that involve? And they haven't been able to answer that question yet.”
Smith said he wants a timeline from the City Manager, not a list of reasons it can’t be done.
“Because I was told that the administration was on board with this, and then we had all these stumbling blocks and burdensome and, and all these other things that just made it sound like it was too difficult to do,” Smith said. “What I'd like to know from the administration is what we would have to do in order to be able to facilitate the change successfully. I mean, that's what I wanted to hear. but apparently that's not what we got.”
Councilmember Rachel Lord supported the change, but did not think her colleagues understood how big of a project such a change would be.
“I support this generally, although I hate fiscal years and I always lament the poor saps who have to do their budgeting in the spring, because it's an incredibly busy time and is painful as all get out to do it,” Lord said. “But with the kind of concerns that have been expressed about the finance department's capacity to stay on top of everything, I am really concerned about doing this on the timeline that it's presented.”
Councilmember Donna Aderhold agreed the timeline was too tight, but in the end, it was only she and Lord voting against the change, in a rare roll-call vote. Councilmembers Joey Evenson, Storm Hansen-Cavasos, Caroline Venuti, and Heath Smith all voted in favor of the change.
The city operates with a budget planned two-years advance, and 2021 is a budget year. The passed resolution moves the city’s budget process up by six months.
*This story has been corrected to reflect the start of the Federal Fiscal Year is in October.