Paul Whitney: Soldotna facing revenue issues

First I would like to thank the Peninsula Clarion for giving me the opportunity to say a few words about myself and some of the issues facing the residents in the City of Soldotna. Jeanne and I moved to Alaska in 1975 where our two children were born and now our six grandchildren who all live within minutes of our home. Our first home was in Fairbanks and in 1988 we moved to Soldotna where we plan to stay forever. Most of my working career has been in the criminal justice system and I retired from the State of Alaska as a Criminal Defense Investigator for the Public Defender Agency.

 

There are a couple of issues of real concern facing the City in the next few months, one being the likelihood of Proposition 1- Repeal of Ordinance 2008-28 (Grocery Tax) being passed. Though the passage of the proposition will save a few dollars each week for everyone in the borough who buys groceries the long term effect on the residents of the City of Soldotna will be more painful. The lost revenue to the City is estimated at $1.0 to $1.2 million dollars or about a 15% reduction of funds used to provide City services, police protection, public works and parks & recreation. The City currently has probably the lowest mill rate in the State if not in the country because our operating budget is almost entirely funded through sales tax.


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What does this all mean to the Soldotna residents? First will be a review of the current budget and a determination where cuts can be made in expenditures without having a detrimental effect on services. The City currently has a healthy fund balance so those funds will be used to smooth the transition, but eventually those funds will no longer be available. At some point in time there will be a need to consider some painful cuts in services or a long hard look at raising revenues.

With the financial problems the State is facing, the City is also seeing a reduction in grants for capital projects (sewer, water, roads) and possibly the elimination of revenue sharing.

Another issue is whether to allow retail/commercial marijuana sales within the City. A number of work sessions have been devoted to what we can and can’t do on regulating marijuana. The question is will commercial cultivation, manufacturing, testing and retail sales be permitted within the City. I believe the current consensus is to not allow the first three and consider only allowing retail sales. An ordinance is being drafted on regulations for retail sales, i.e. location, number of establishments, hours, taxing/fees, and will be before the Council by the end of the year. The voters of Soldotna did not vote in favor of legalizing marijuana and I would very much like to hear from those people before making a decision on allowing commercial sales within the City.

Thank you and I urge everyone to get out and vote on October 6.

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