CES concerned about Prop 1

Agency says $350K in cuts will cause problems

Tonight, during the Central Emergency Services Fire Board meeting in Kasilof, Fire Chief Chris Mokracek will explain plans to close the Kalifornsky Beach fire station —off and on — cut the agencies’ dive rescue team, suspend the preliminary fire investigations team and maybe even get rid of the deputy fire marshal and his vehicle.

 

In total, Mokracek’s plans, if initiated on Jan. 1, 2014, would equal $350,000 in cuts to balance the amount of money that is estimated to be lost to CES if Proposition 1 wins enough votes during the October General Election.

Proposition 1 seeks to raise the allowable property tax exemption from $20,000 to $50,000 annually. The increase would apply to a single parcel of land registered as owner’s permanent home.

“The Borough will not cut their budget,” said Fred Sturman, one of two primary sponsors behind the citizen initiative. “They will spend the money.”

Sturman said the motivation behind Proposition 1 was to give young people access to the same level of tax breaks that “old folks” get.

“They’ve had no breaks over the years at all,” Sturman said.

Senior citizens in the Borough are eligible for an exemption of up to $300,000 of the assessed value of their primary residence.

The initiative passed through the August primary election and is the result of a petition by Sturman and James Price, two Peninsula residents continually seeking to reduce taxes and government expenditures and are also the lead people behind the Borough’s current assembly term limits, which the assembly seeks to overturn with Proposition 3A and 3B on the October ballot.

During a Wednesday forum for candidates running for Kenai Borough Assembly seats five of six candidates present said they supported the tax break for homeowners.

Overall, Proposition 1 would cut an estimated $1.3 million in tax receipts from the Borough’s general fund; the most coming from CES and the least from Central Peninsula Hospital, which is expected to lose $90 a year. Among others junior taxing districts, roads would lose $285,000 annually; South Kenai Peninsula Hospital would lose $174,000 annually. Other service areas would see losses in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Only the current District 7 Assemblymember Brett Johnson disliked the idea and said that though the tax break would help “poor people,” it would also shift the tax burden to others through a likely mill rate increase by the service areas affected.

“It’s an opportunity for the service areas to raise the mill rate,” Johnson said.

Incumbent District 4 Assemblymember Linda Murphy supports Proposition 1 saying that the Borough could absorb the losses and noted that much of the impact would otherwise fall on only 57 percent of homeowners. Forty-three percent of the property taxes sent out are to owners living outside the borough, she said.

Mokracek said his cuts to CES were chosen specifically to provide the least impact to staffing firefighters for service calls. K-Beach will have less of a negative effect on firefighting and emergency calls than closing the station out at Funny River, which is 17 miles from the nearest back up station. Kasilof, Soldotna and Kenai can help on K-Beach if calls come in while the station is closed, he said. He expects a discussion on the issue during the 6 p.m. meeting tonight.

Also a possible concern to residents in affected areas is the affect the closure could have on the insurance rating that decided, in part, homeowner’s fire insurance premiums. Mokracek said that before the stations wen in at Kasilof and Funny River the ISO rating, which establishes fire insurance rates with a 1 to 10 scale, 10 being the worst, for each was a 10.

Since the stations went in the rating moved to a 7 and residents have saved about $1,000 year on premiums, he said.

Other areas of the CES fire district are set at an ISO rating of 6 because they have access to fire hydrants,

“We didn’t worry about that,” Sturman said of the possible increase in fire insurance for some homeowners. If Proposition 1 wins, Sturman said that the Borough would find the money from the general fund to replace the lost $350,000.

 

Reach Greg Skinner at greg.skinner@peninsulaclarion.com

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