Nome Has a Budget for 2020, But It Comes With a Shortfall

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

Nome will likely be taking $1.4 million out of savings to pay for the fiscal year 2020 budget. The City Council passed the new budget unanimously without much discussion during Monday night’s meeting.

After six work sessions, including a joint session with the Nome Public Schools Board of Education, the City now has a general fund budget of just under $14.2 million dollars. That’s a 7% increase from last year: an increase of $936,244.

In an e-mail with KNOM, Nome Finance Director Julie Liew explained that the current FY ’20 budget has a city contribution of $3 million for Nome Public Schools. That is in anticipation of Governor Dunleavy vetoing the Base Student Allocation of $5,930 that has been approved by the Alaska House and Senate.

The city approved $2,000,800 for the Nome Police Department, an extra half million than the originally approved FY ’19 budget. Notable policing increases include additional personnel and a new patrol vehicle. The department is now approved for one lieutenant, two sergeants, seven officers, an administrative assistant, and a part-time evidence custodian.

In their last meeting, the City raised the mill rate, and finance director Julie Liew projects a 20% increase in property taxes. The new rate will be at 13 mills, up from 11 mills. In her memo to the City, Liew calls the revenue projections “realistic and conservative.”

“And then the bad news for last: we’ve been spending some money or committing some money on an emergency basis.”

Interim City Manager John Handeland shared that the damage at the Westgold Dock is worse than previously thought. The wye is damaged and the tail wall is separated, putting the structural integrity at risk.

The cost estimate for the repair is already at half a million dollars, but that doesn’t cover all engineering costs. Julie Liew explains that the Port doesn’t have those funds, and most of their expenses are covered by the General Fund.

“Expenses for this emergency project are not in the budget. So, I was hoping someone would have called for an amendment just now, but I guess we’ll have to tackle it at mid-year budget amendment.”

Emergency repairs have already begun, with equipment and sheetrock already on the way to Nome. That spending could be covered by a final budget resolution for the current FY 2019. Labor and engineering costs would have to be covered later in 2020 but aren’t accounted for in the budget passed on Monday.

Port Director Joy Baker says the emergency work is worth it to make up for revenue that would otherwise be lost. Baker is hopeful that the dock should be functional again by early August, allowing time to secure permits and accommodate possible weather delays.

In other business, a newly passed ordinance requires that individuals on the Nome City Council be referred to as gender-neutral “councilmembers.” All councilmembers voted to delay voting on a personal property tax for ATVs and snowmachines in favor of having a more comprehensive conversation on personal property tax in a future work session.

The Council will meet again on July 8 for their next regular meeting.

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