During the Homer Chamber of Commerce State of the City Luncheon Tuesday, Homer officials touted the city’s good financial health. Homer Mayor Ken Castner said the city generally uses conservative estimates when it comes to revenue each year. He said that prevents overspending.
“So we had a pretty healthy surplus in 2017,” he said. “And I think we'll probably next week learn where we are in 2018, but it looks like we'll probably have some surplus too.”
Castner thinks Homer’s city government has grown but notes labor costs are making up a smaller percentage of the overall city budget.
Still, the mayor said there are ways to improve the city’s budgeting process. He recommended developing a policy that would require the city to keep healthy reserves in its savings accounts.
Castner also wants the Homer City Council to craft the city’s budget on a bi-annual basis.
“I think that if we budget for two years and we’re always looking back 11 months and ahead 11 months (then) on a quarterly basis we can always see how the cash moves in and out of the city's coffers,” he said. “And we can get a really great idea as to where our budget will be in two or three years rather than just kind of looking at it on a lump-sum annual basis in the fall.
He believes that a two-year budget could also save the city money by cutting auditing and management costs. City Manager Katie Koester spoke in support of the idea, saying it would allow city officials to spend more time on other issues.
Koester said the city has been able to weather the last few years of the state’s fiscal crisis well but noted an undercurrent of anxiety surrounding Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposed budget plan. He’s proposing deep cuts to education, health and the marine highway system.
“The reality is we are a college town,” she said. “We have kids in the schools here. We are a marine highway town. The hospital is our largest employer, and they provide great jobs. All these places provide great jobs. So we're all concerned about the health of our community.”
Koester and Castner also touched on numerous other topics such as the state’s plan to repave Pioneer Avenue in May and the city’s continued work toward a large-vessel harbor expansion project.