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City of Nome May Use Savings to Balance FY ’20 Budget

Double doors with a small placard reading "Council Chambers."

The City of Nome is closer to passing a fiscal year 2020 budget. But in order to pass the desired budget, the city will have to use savings.

Councilmembers Jennifer Reader and Adam Martinson engaged in a difficult conversation for the city at Thursday night’s meeting.

“How sustainable is taking 1.5 million dollars out of our city budget… how long is that going to last?”

“Well, how much money do we have? That’s how many years.”

Julie Liew, Nome’s Finance Director, explained that right now, the city has about $8 million in unassigned funds. While most councilmembers agreed that the city will need to find ways to increase revenue for the future, for now, the unanimous agreement is that the extra spending is necessary. A bulk of the increased spending for the next fiscal year goes toward funding the Nome Public Schools and the public safety department: two areas the council deems necessary. The final reading of the budget goes to vote in June.

The seven budget ordinances that passed first reading on Thursday make up the FY 2020 budget.

And now with summer on the way, the City has to deal with road maintenance and dust. One of the agenda resolutions up for vote awarded a contract to Q Trucking Garage to furnish crushed aggregate for the roads. But Ken Hughes of the Nome Planning Commission pointed out that the ratio of fines in the contracted aggregate may not be the most effective.

“If you add a little more fines to your material, your calcium chloride will work better.”

The award was still given, but with the recommendation of considering a slightly different order.

Building permits continued to be an issue during citizens’ comments. Colby Engstrom expressed frustration that the City has given him five different elevation levels for his Front Street project. He says the deadline is important because he has until October 2019 to complete his business, or he’ll have to pay back his $50,000 NSEDC grant. Jessica Farley asked if her mis-issued occupancy permit could be refunded.

“I understand that the city may not have a legal obligation to refund our fees, but I hope that you’ll reconsider the moral obligation here in that we did something really good for Nome. It didn’t work out for us, but the error does lay with the city.”

In the May 13 meeting, Farley claimed that the city had “systematic issues” when it comes to building and occupancy permits.

In other resolved business, the city set the mill rate at 13, an increase from the current rate of 11, or an increase of $2 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for June 10.

Image at top: The entrance to the Nome City Council chambers. Photo: Emily Hofstaedter, KNOM.