Homer windfall from jack-up rig docking raises spending questions

Naomi Klouda

From the Homer Tribune: The Buccaneer Energy Ltd. jack-up drilling rig that spent several unexpected months docked on the Homer Spit last winter brought the city a windfall in property tax and docking fees: a total of more than $750,000. Most of that will go into a port enhancement fund and into the city permanent fund, but one immediate beneficiary turned out to be a foundation that backs local nonprofit organizations.

The Homer City Council passed a resolution at Monday night’s council meeting that grants $9,054 to the Homer Foundation. The foundation doubles and triples investment income that supports the food pantry and a lengthy list of other nonprofits.

“The money that is going to the Homer Foundation is actually property tax money from the rig that the city received,” City Manager Walt Wrede said. “The council decided that this property tax money was probably a one-time windfall and decided to deposit it in the permanent fund. The permanent fund ordinance says that when the city receives windfall money, that 5 percent goes to the City of Homer Fund at the Homer Foundation.”

But that leaves about $172,000 in property tax windfall that could be available for other uses.

A growing group of people are questioning how the city uses these one-time “windfall” funds, such as from the rig’s property taxes. Homer Voice for Business, a consortium of about 30 businesses, is questioning the new sewer rate structure that increases the cost for large quantity water users. At the last council meeting, Mike Dye advocated spending $150,000 of the extra money from Buccaneer Energy’s rig to offset the ailing water-sewer funding issues.

Read more: Nonprofit gets over $9K from rig taxes