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A few points from the tax exemption debate

Posted: January 11, 2014 - 3:33pm

Last week, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly debated an ordinance intended to cap the total property value that could be exempted by senior citizens from borough property tax. The ordinance did not pass, but there are some points to keep in mind moving forward, as government revenue and tax burden are always items that spur lively debate.

At issue for the assembly were a pair of property tax exemptions. One allows the borough’s senior citizens to exempt up to $300,000 of their home’s value when it comes time to figure their property tax bill. The other exemption, approved by voters in last fall’s election, raises the amount that residents may exempt on their primary residence from $20,000 to $50,000. The intent of the failed ordinance was to cap the amount that senior citizens could exempt at $300,000.

First, for those arguing against changes in the exemptions, it’s unfair to label the elected officials who supported the measure as “anti-senior.” That type of rhetoric adds nothing to the debate. The discussion should focus on the pros and cons of the measure, and its potential impact on and consequences for borough residents. Debate the policy, not the people.

That said, elected officials need to be cautious when attempting to interpret voter intent, as some suggested that being able to take both exemptions wasn’t what borough residents wanted. On just about every issue, Peninsula voters’ motives tend to be all over the map. Indeed, some will vote the same way on an issue but have vastly different reasons for doing so. The only way to determine the intent of the voters is to ask a very specific question on the ballot.

What the borough government is left with is two separate property tax exemptions on the books. Just like credits and deductions on a federal income tax return, most people are going to claim as many as they qualify for. With no language prohibiting residents from claiming multiple exemptions — the borough has a number of other property tax exemptions in addition to the ones listed here — those exemptions must simply be taken at face value. And you can’t blame borough residents for wanting to keep as much money as they can in their own pocket.

If the borough government is having trouble balancing its budget, perhaps a review of all the exemptions on the books is in order. What’s more, if those exemptions were approved by voters, changes also should be approved by voters, just as the assembly did when it asked voters to cap the senior tax exemption in 2007.

But changing the rules for one group of taxpayers — however generous those rules may be — is bad policy.

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ptzsr1
370
Points
ptzsr1 01/13/14 - 11:17 am
2
3
Facts versus rhetoric

The editorial piece has many points for consideration and well written. However, I take exception to your categorization of "anti-Senior" as rhetoric. In this case it is a statement of fact. The ordinance itself was targeted at Seniors, not a group which included Seniors. Had there been no vote it would be rhetoric.

The members voting to reduce the Senior exemption and increase taxes specifically voted against Senior benefits. That is not a debate, it is a recorded fact. The pros and cons were debated and the votes cast.
Your own closing statement "changing rules for one group of taxpayers ....is bad policy ", in itself is quite poignant.

To whomever wrote the editorial, thank you for your insights.

Suss
3956
Points
Suss 01/13/14 - 11:32 am
2
4
Part time Alaskan Seniors

I still think there are senior exemptions given that are not valid. Part time Alaskans. Floridians passing the hot summer months in Alaska. Reverse snowbirds. Please double check those residency requirements and the out of state resident status of these faux Alaskan seniors.

beaverlooper
3132
Points
beaverlooper 01/13/14 - 12:35 pm
4
0
Qulafications

The exemption is on your primary residence. This would require one to be an Alaskan and borough resident and could be verified in several different ways . Able to Draw a PFD,registered to vote in the borough,etc. As far as people who go outside in the winter for a while,nothing prohibits the freedom to travel.
I am not yet a senor but this is my 47th winter in Alaska and they keep getting harder and harder for me.3 or 4 weeks or even 2 or 3 months if I could afford it is not a bad thing.Personally I need to escape the cold ,but mostly the dark to help me keep my sanity and it makes the winter a lot shorter.

ptzsr1
370
Points
ptzsr1 01/13/14 - 01:42 pm
3
2
Proving a point

Thank you Suss for proving my point, some people just want to point fingers at Seniors. The Residential Exemption applies to residents of ALL ages. The KPB cross checks your home ownership with state PFD status. If you are not PFD eligible you must explain the reason.
Beaverlooper is correct, the PFD statutes allow all residents to spend some time outside without being penalized.

Suss
3956
Points
Suss 01/13/14 - 04:07 pm
2
3
Back on topic

The senior exemption.... Those newbies that have never spent a Winter, claim their 6 month residence and have the gall to think they speak for all seniors. Some of these Cheeky Cheechako types are a flash in the pan with an interesting Soapy Smith like trail from the flatlands of the South. Time will always show that Alaskans really enjoy the live theater provided by the loud newcomers. Welcome pilgrim, is that how you say "Howdy" in Texan or Oklahoman or Floridian? Being a qualified senior for tax exemption does not make one an Alaskan! I propose that anyone with a mortgage twice their borough assessment gets a special tax consideration. Again, there may come a time for a needs based exemption because of abuses and state budget shortfalls. Seniors are not under attack in this area, they may have been back in the sunny, sunny south lands though.

ManInBlack
182
Points
ManInBlack 01/13/14 - 09:31 pm
3
2
ptzsr1....

So very george bush of you to simple-mindedly make it an "if you're not with us, you're against us"...

I guess based on your "logic", it is fair to cal lall you faux Alaskan seniors system manipulating, socialist, welfare leaches, right? (you know, you and your wealthy friends who only come for a few summer months, and then retreat to your OTHER residence in ANOTHER state, all the while trying to convince struggling residents of this community of your TERRIBLE plight of having too many houses with "too many taxes"...)

After all, all of my monikers for you are " a statement of fact"...

beaverlooper
3132
Points
beaverlooper 01/13/14 - 11:18 pm
3
0
suess

There are different amounts of time used to determine residency in Alaska. 6 Months to vote,a year to get a resident hunting ,fishing,trapping license. Let's use the fishing license one,that and PFD eligibility.

ptzsr1
370
Points
ptzsr1 01/17/14 - 11:54 am
0
0
Scarlett Olivia Zuyus

Thank you to all readers who sent the well wishes and prayers for Scarlett.

Our six year grand daughter, Scarlett Olivia Zuyus became one of God's angels last night at 9:40 pm, at home in Tulsa, OK. She was holding her Dad's hand when she smiled and peacefully went into God's open arms. Kathy and I were fortunate to spend many of her last days together with her. Thank You again

Peter T. Zuyus

Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPad

Norseman
3613
Points
Norseman 01/18/14 - 08:29 am
1
0
..."But changing the rules

..."But changing the rules for one group of taxpayers — however generous those rules may be — is bad policy."...

That in a nutshell sums it all up. Great editorial by the way.

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