In a little over a week, Kenai Peninsula voters will be faced with two ballot measures concerning our sales tax structure, and one measure dealing with how we are represented on two public boards.
It’s important that residents fully consider and weigh each proposition, just as it’s important for residents to thoroughly contemplate candidates for public office.
The first proposition will ask voters whether or not they would like to repeal the seasonal sales tax exemption for non-prepared foods. Currently, all sales on non-prepared foods are exempt from borough sales tax from Sept. 1 through May 31 every year.
Although this might sound like a win for residents, ultimately it will cut about $2.8 million from revenue that’s dedicated to our school system next year if left intact. However, the district’s funding needs won’t change and therefore the exemption places the burden more on the property owner. The money has to come from somewhere and the remaining source is property tax or the borough’s general fund.
A repeal of the exemption would help restore a bit more balance to the equation while eliminating a bi-annual headache for businesses — certainly it can’t be easy to switch how you collect taxes twice per year. And, everything is simpler when the tax is uniform.
A vote for this proposition would be a vote for school funding, a more balanced tax structure and simpler tax rules for businesses.
If this proposition passes, however, we would strongly encourage the borough administration and assembly to look at the whole borough tax structure — sales and property taxes — and further fine-tune them to ensure balance and responsibility.
Proposition 1 — Yes.
The second proposition voters will decided on is increasing the borough sales tax from 3 percent to 3.1 percent with the additional revenue to benefit economic development purposes.
The .1 percent tax increase, which would add $.10 to a $100 sale and raise an additional estimated $900,000 annually, might not be noticeable to most on a daily basis.
But, we are opposed to new taxes that aren’t for things we greatly need and aren’t things we can judge, scrutinize and control through an established process.
Essentially, if we approve this, we will be giving $900,000 to the assembly to split up as it sees fit. Some will go to the cities — Homer, Seward, Kenai and Soldotna — to fund economic development, but do those cities have a plan for that money? Not that we’ve heard of.
Some of that money will go to the non-departmental organizations, which will likely keep getting funding from the borough assembly without it.
Also, once the money departs the public’s control, who is going to measure its return on investment? Who will make the decision on what, or how the money is being spent. A cast of assembly members rotating every two terms or sooner? Not likely.
We’re all for economic development if it can be done in an effective, cost-friendly and — most importantly — accountable manner. Approving this proposition would raise a lot of money that nobody seems to have a plan for, and that’s never a good idea.
Proposition No. 2 — No.
The third proposition asks voters to consider two plans for how the borough is represented on the assembly and school board.
One plan is for nine, single-member districts and the other for 11, single-member districts.
It isn’t broke, so don’t fix it.
The current system of having nine members on both boards works fine even with the slight population increase the borough has seen in the last decade. We doubt 11 members will do anything but slow down the process, add more bureaucracy and raise the cost to tax payers.
Proposition No. 3 — Plan 1, nine, single-member districts.
As always, we encourage all residents to exercise their rights and vote on Tuesday, Oct. 4.