Second Town Hall To Address City Budget Gap

Sep 22, 2015

     The City of Homer continues to seek options to fill an estimated ten percent budget shortfall. On Wednesday the city plans to hold its second town hall meeting on the problem. KBBI’s Quinton Chandler reports the upcoming meeting is another attempt to gather public opinion on revenue options for the city.

     The Revenue Solutions Town Hall meeting is on Wednesday September 23rd in City Hall’s Cowles Council Chambers. Much like the City of Homer’s July town hall titled Closing the Gap, the upcoming meeting is designed to give Homer residents a say in how the city will fill its budget deficit.

“This one is going to be similar in the sense that it’s focused on fixing the problem, but it’s going to be more focused on looking specifically at revenue options and pluses and minuses. Or possibly without revenue options…what that would look like,” explains Lawrence.

 Assistant City Manager Patrick Lawrence says city officials want to hear resident’s thoughts potential ideas that the city hasn’t considered. This upcoming meeting will also be about sharing results from the last town hall meeting and an online survey designed by city employees. 

“We’re going to be talking about what those participants said in that town hall meeting [and] what participants said in the survey. We’re going to say based on information we have gathered from the public we need to make some decisions,” says Lawrence.

 In both the online survey and live polling from the last town hall meeting residents were asked to rank city services at a critical, medium, or low level of importance. The vast majority of residents who participated considered almost all services provided by the City of Homer to be critical needs. Planning and Zoning was the only city department ranked at a medium level of importance. Lawrence says the discussion on how to meet the city’s budgetary needs will continue even after Wednesday’s meeting. 

“We’re definitely going to have another town hall meeting after this one. Once we’re a little further down the road [and] once we have budgets from city council,” says Lawrence.

 During the Closing the Gap meeting City Manager Katie Koester projected this year’s budget shortfall could be as great as $1.3 million. Lawrence says there is no way of knowing for certain what the actual number is until around mid-October. 

“Currently what we’re working on is tax revenue projections and I don’t think we get those specifics until later in October,” says Lawrence.

 City Council Member Beau Burgess has warned multiple times the city’s inability to fund depreciation reserves in recent years could mean the deficit is going to pencil out to as much as double the city’s $1.3 million estimate. The city hasn’t funded its reserves in the past six years. Lawrence says Burgess has a valid point, but it’s unclear how much the failure to fund reserves will contribute to the shortfall. The Revenue Solutions Town Hall Meeting is at 5:30 pm on Wednesday.