Council Debates Future of Asset Reserve Funds

May 11, 2021

Credit City of Homer

The City of Homer has a small handful of fund accounts that some think have become unwieldy and carry the potential for spending outside of the budget. The Capital Asset Repair and Maintenance Allowance, or CARMA Fund is  reserves for replacement of a wide variety of the city’s assets, such as water and sewer infrastructure and vehicles in the city’s various fleets.
    Mayor Ken Castner has been advocating for reining the accounts in with consolidation, and spoke to it at last night’s city council “Committee of the Whole” meeting.
    “I would rather have CARMA assets in a stepping account where money goes into it to fund the capital budget, as opposed to an account that is open at any time, just to be visited without having any understanding of what the ramifications are down the road, where you had a depreciation schedule that depended on money to come through that account,” the mayor said.
    Councilmember Heath Smith was in agreement with the mayor.
    “I do have some issues with these baskets for all these different funds, because it, in a way, becomes a pseudo appropriation,” Smith said. “It becomes a justification that the money exists for that purpose. And therefore there's no reason to object to the request for the money because that's what it's there for. And there's no real objective, kind of gaging against anything else. It's for that purpose and that purpose only. And that's kind of the assumption of it.”
    Councilmember Donna Aderhold said more rigorous policies need to be put in place to oversee the funds.
    “This is a big deal. We need to revisit CARMA and we need to set a policy. We need to have this understanding of how these funds are intended to use,” Aderhold said. “And so that's kind of the direction I'm hoping that we can go with this overall thing, how ever we decide to deal with the cookie jars.”
    Councilmember Rachel Lord called on Mayor Castner to bring the council together to an agreeable solution.
    “I have very strong feelings about different concerns that I have, different hopes and dreams and all of these things. I have a vested interest in this as do you mayor, you have very strong feelings about how you believe this should go. And at the end of the day, we as a body should be able to get to someplace,” Lord said. “And you have run on a platform of consensus and working together and getting everybody to yes. And so what I'd like to see us do is try to get everybody to yes. Cause I don't think Heath and Donna and Caroline and Storm like, I don't think we're super far apart and I don't feel like I'm super far apart from you mayor, in terms of the end goal.”
    Later, during the regular city council meeting, Mayor Castner offered a compromise to the plan of grouping the CARMA Funds with the main budget accounts they are associated with. It would resolve a negative balance in the General Fund CARMA account that has been a sticking point in discussion of the budget and CARMA funds. A revised ordinance will be brought back in a couple of meetings for council consideration.