City preparing property tax lien foreclosure process
The Nome Common Council finished mid-year revisions to the general fund and four other budgets on Monday evening. The adjustments to the FY 2019 spending plan will bring most of the revenue and expenses closer to actual and projected dollar amounts as of Jan. 10.
In second reading and final passage the Council amended the general fund to reflect an additional expenditure of $13,000 to bring the Senior Citizens Building expenditure to $69,885 for purchasing a new commercial dishwasher, food prep table and cabinetry and made other adjustments that increased the operating deficit by $46,074 to $2,236,918.26, which will be appropriated from savings to balance the budget at $13,782,189.47.
The Council anticipated a shortfall when preparing the budget last year, but chose to avoid an increase in the property tax mill rate by tapping savings. The Council amended the Port of Nome fund to increase the operating deficit by $30,477 to $114,701.84, which will be appropriated from savings to balance the budget at $1,833,756.84. Likewise the Council made transfers and amendments to the Port of Nome capital projects fund to allow revenue and expenditures of $30,477 as the City’s match for the Port Road improvements project, bringing the total budgeted expenditure to $6.162,109.23. Meanwhile, the Council and City’s administrative staff have embarked on the schedule to achieving the 2020 budget. Julie Liew, finance director, will be distributing budget instructions and worksheets to department heads on Jan. 30.
City poised to foreclose
The Council brought out a resolution authorizing the filing of a lawsuit to authorize foreclosure of municipal real property tax liens. The City’s last foreclosure process occurred in 2015. It is an arduous process, according to City Clerk Bryant Hammond. He was bringing it up now, but wanted to give property owners until April 4 to update their property taxes before listing their names in the Nome Nugget for four weeks. He would send a courtesy letter warning them in early February. The Council urged Hammond to give the tax debtors a third month.
“I have about $200,000 in accounts receivable,” Hammond said.
In other business the Council:
• Congratulated Finance Director Julie Liew on the City receiving clean audit results from Altman, Rogers and Co. on FY 2018.
• Received through John Handeland, interim city manager, an updated resource list from Lisa Ellanna with about 100 entries where people in trouble can find help. Handeland asked anyone with information to add it to the entries so that the list could be distributed, posted and shared throughout the community, even shown on the City’s website. Additionally, Ellanna distributed a manual for agencies dealing with people incapacitated by a variety of causes, not just alcohol. Ellanna and Darlene Trigg worked on the 11-page project. The Council thanked Ellanna for their work.
• Learned from Handeland that Nome Eskimo Community has donated use of the Trigg Tribal Hall, their large meeting area, on Monday, Feb. 18 for the Council-hosted community meeting on public safety. A meeting time will be decided in consultation with the two Council representatives to the meeting—Megan Topkok and Doug Johnson. The City is bringing attorney Brooks Chandler to Nome to begin setting up the legal parameters for a community public safety committee.
• Received comment from Handeland that the process of the NPD going through priority death, sex abuse and domestic violence cases to close or determine if a case has been closed prematurely or is active requiring further investigation or referral to the District Attorney, is very time consuming. “Each case record is being opened or reviewed to confirm status and to update as appropriate and to insure accuracy,” Handeland reported to the Council. He cited a case that had been reported open, but according to CourtView online, the suspect is serving time for the crime.
Also in Handeland’s report, he sought a higher pay grade for the employee in the temporary evidence custodian position, currently Paul Kosto. “While long term, an evidence custodian will be more of a processor, we are lucky to have the part time assistance of Paul Kosto to assist in the case review process,” Handeland’s report said. “In fairness, the part-time custodian’s additional expertise and our expectations call for placement at 14G (which is equivalent to 17). In accordance with the Ordinance, initial placement was at 14D. The increase would be $2.50 per hour. ” Councilman Mark Johnson said he did not feel comfortable with the process of raising Kosto’s pay.
“I have an extensive memo from Chief Estes based on future responsibilities needing the pay to be higher,” Handeland said, who remarked that the position, now temporary, could be permanent. “You want to give a raise to a temporary employee? I’m not sure I feel comfortable elevating a temporary employee,” Johnson said. He opined that maybe when all the cases had been caught up, perhaps there would not be a need for as many additional employees as anticipated, like maybe in one instance where there was one employee currently, but Estes saw a need for about five, next year. Handeland withdrew his request for the pay change; the motion approving it was withdrawn.
• Unanimously voted to donate $4,000 to an Alaska Municipal League project to achieve uniformity in state tax law so that municipalities may take advantage of sales tax collected on online sales by Amazon. Amazon will tax only the items they sell from their warehouses, not items sold from associates and third parties.
• Introduced and voted onto second reading a measure that stemmed from a resolution passed up from the Nome Planning Commission, providing, if adopted, parcels left after City land disposal auctions would be available for people to buy over the counter. This process might get more land onto the tax rolls and give people more time to get finances together and have more notice, plus streamline the process. Councilman Mark Johnson, and several others cited a story in the Anchorage newspaper referencing a suggestion that the municipality provide tax incentives for people starting businesses in the downtown area, something that Nome also needed to rejuvenate its downtown area.
• Introduced into first reading an ordinance amending City law to allow a person with an active Commercial Driver’s License to use it to meet the health standards for a chauffeur’s license. A health exam for a CDL is good for two years; Councilman Doug Johnson wondered why a person with a CDL would have to get another exam for a chauffeur’s license.
• Unanimously approved a list of organizations to whom the Council, with advice from the public, had decided to distribute a share of the $167,000 Community Benefit Share from NSEDC.