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Seniors under attack by borough politicians

Posted: December 19, 2013 - 9:02am

In 1986 senior citizens were leaving the borough in alarming numbers. Moving south or other boroughs, more welcoming of seniors and pleased to have them as part of their community.

Borough leaders and residents reacted by saying, you are our seniors, you built our borough and we want you to stay. That is when the Kenai Peninsula Borough enacted Ordinance 86-78 eliminating real estate taxes for seniors over age 65. The state had already recognized the senior contribution by enacting Statute 29.45.03 (e) exempting Alaska seniors from the first $150,000 of assessed valuation.

The impact of state and borough exemptions exceeded expectations. The senior migration reversed, not only did KPB seniors stay, but other Alaskan seniors built homes and retired in the KPB, which affectionately became known as “The Alaskan Riviera” for its beauty and climate. Seniors approaching retirement built new homes, remodeled existing homes and invested heavily into the Kenai Peninsula. They created jobs and are still a major contributor to the economic growth of the KPB.

In 2006 borough politicians decided the contribution of seniors was no longer needed. Twenty years of successful investment by seniors, now attacked by a new generation of politician.

The KPB politicians rushed to rescind the unlimited senior exemption and brought it to a vote under the guise of “vote yes for the senior exemption.” Mislead seniors and voters thought they were preserving the exemption, not raising taxes on many seniors.

The result? Seniors no longer trust the borough they helped build. Remodels that would exceed the new exemption limit dried up. New construction of homes over $300,000 virtually ceased. Since the 2007 assault on seniors the KPB has lost millions of dollars in revenue and several thousand jobs. The KPB forecast of massive additional tax revenues from seniors never materialized.

Now, Mayor Navarre, with Assembly members Smith and Johnson want to raise taxes on seniors again. After a successful, but misleading Ordinance to remove the senior unlimited exemption and an Ordinance to raise the general residential exemption to $50,000, they have turned on seniors once more, by trying to eliminate the eligibility of seniors for the $50,000 residential exemption.

They have they scheduled this Assembly vote on Ordinance 2013-36 for Jan. 7, 2014. Why this date?

Simple, they know many KPB Seniors will still be visiting family. Embarrassed for their constituents to see them attack seniors, they get deniability by saying “Sorry, you seniors should have been there”

If you are a senior, have relatives that are seniors, or plan on becoming a senior one day, please tell Mayor Navarre and the Assembly: vote no, stop assaulting seniors, leave their $350,000 total exemption alone and go about the important business of managing the KPB. Call, write or email, but let them know that you support the seniors of the KPB.

You are our friends, relatives, our children and grand children. Someday you will be us. We need your help and support.

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James Price
116
Points
James Price 12/19/13 - 04:00 pm
9
1
Borough "confusion" continues

Certain elected Borough Assemblymen claim "confusion" every time the citizens pass an initiative that the politicians cannot bring themselves to support.

Their latest "confusion" provided justification for an ordinance to provide the FOURTH voting opportunity to rescind term limits. Now their "confusion" is used for justification to take away the $50,000 personal property tax exemption from the seniors.

There was no confusion on my part. I wrote and legally submitted the ballot initiative. It's intention was clear and that was to provide this exemption for every qualified resident homeowner within the borough.

There is no justification for taking this exemption away from local seniors. I hope the public sees this abuse of power for what it is. I will remember which politicians refuse to honor the voters' expressed will by attempting to rescind this voter authorized exemption and I vote.

People need to show up at the January 7th Borough Assembly meeting to support our seniors. Please contact YOUR Assembly representative and let them know how YOU feel about this proposed ordinance. What the Borough is attempting to do is wrong.

realdealdamsel
11
Points
realdealdamsel 12/19/13 - 04:09 pm
8
1
Seniors

I agree with Peter Zuyus. Seniors have paid enough real estate taxes their whole lives. They should be shown appreciation for coming to these Alaska communities and helping maintain the economies by staying in Alaska, and not moving to Florida. To increase taxes on seniors is abusive.

herbtr
122
Points
herbtr 12/20/13 - 09:20 am
5
2
Not confused

Looks like some of our politicians are progressive socialists. Demonize seniors, who is next? Hope we have enough good Assemblymen that respect seniors to stop this ordinance. Thanks for the information and good luck from a fellow senior.

ptzsr1
142
Points
ptzsr1 12/20/13 - 10:15 am
3
0
Assembly contact

You can find borough contacts on the Borough website or at

KPBSeniors.com

Please take a moment to contact them to vote NO
Thank you

sparky
45
Points
sparky 12/20/13 - 12:07 pm
7
1
Seniors living on the Kenai

I just read the article by Peter Zuyus Sr.on the KPB Senior web site.My life parallels his,closely,except for the terminally ill granddaughter.We live in one of the most beautiful places on earth,but the cost of living is very high!Since I retired in 2007,my FIXED Income has not changed,but the Costs keep going UP..If we lose these exemptions,that were thoughtfully implemented,there will be NO choice but to leave.I know that I'm not alone in this matter.We apparently have Burough polititions that do not have the same financial situation as the rest of us.

Norseman
2922
Points
Norseman 12/20/13 - 05:27 pm
5
6
Everybody wants good roads,

Everybody wants good roads, plowed and sanded roads, hospitals, ambulances, fire stations, parks, picnic areas, government services, and everything else that is paid for in part by taxes, but seems no one ever wants to pay for em.

To have these things require that someone pay for them. Property taxes, sales taxes, and income taxes are ways that most are paid for.
Who do you wish to pay for these? Santa?

James Price
116
Points
James Price 12/20/13 - 07:37 pm
8
1
Why increase taxes on Seniors, Norseman?

Any losses in Borough income from the entire residential exemption have been more than covered by the significant increases in assessments from the last couple of years. Growth and increasing value of real estate will dwarf the small amount obtained by denying seniors the tax exemption that Borough citizens voted for.

Where is the demonstrated need or justification for this tax increase on seniors? This ordinance in a knee-jerk reaction by term-limited Assembly members that refuse to accept that citizens can and do dictate policy to their elected representatives in the Kenai Peninsula Borough. Who do they serve?

I question the wisdom and appropriateness of this ordinance. Going after our seniors is bad public policy.

jlmh
351
Points
jlmh 12/20/13 - 11:19 pm
2
7
A big fuss over a little sum

The average home value on the Kenai Peninsula is $192,592. Most single-family homes are between $126,503 and $278,528.

This means that only seniors with the highest value homes pay any property taxes at all. And they pay only a fraction of the taxes that a younger person would pay for the same home. If you own a $350,000 home, is it really such a big deal to pay taxes on $50,000 of it? (Considering that we are taxed at 0.78% of the home's value, I believe that would be about $390 a year.)

I think that's a pretty good deal for "good roads, plowed and sanded roads, hospitals, ambulances, fire stations, parks, picnic areas, government services, and everything else that is paid for in part by taxes," as Norseman put it. And if it's really a financial hardship, those seniors can apply for an exemption.

Throwing a fit over $390 or less in taxes, when you possess some of the highest valued property on the peninsula, seems a little greedy...

ManInBlack
182
Points
ManInBlack 12/20/13 - 10:23 pm
1
7
jlmh has it correct

Also, too many "poor seniors" utilizing said exemption do not live here full time... They are the stereotypical snowbirds; living in california, arizona, florida, etc., coming up here in the summer months only, fishing with senior fishing licenses (free), driving their senior vehicles (free registration), harvesting the wildlife that is for TRUE Alaskan seniors, etc. There are a LOT of seniors in this area that are who the exemption was meant to benefit , you know, those old timers who actually BUILT the communities, not the ones who jump from their house outside to come up here in the summer. Shame on the stingy, self serving, small minded seniors who only take advantage of the BEST Alaska has to offer, without ever tasting the worst. We would be better off without them.

If you "poor seniors" can't deal with having to pay a pittance for only having to live here half the year, then please sell your house on the river, or house on the lake, or house on the hillside (Homer), and stay outside. Otherwise you just come off as the typical socialist leaches...

P.S.- A quick google search of peter t zuyus sr., age 65+, shows addresses in florida... I think I WILL call the borough on Monday and have them verify this "poor seniors" eligibility.

ptzsr1
142
Points
ptzsr1 12/22/13 - 07:08 am
7
2
Alaska Senior facts

The State of Alaska considers Seniors a “basic industry” , similar to oil, seafood, tourism and mining.

The 2013 overall economic impact of Seniors in Alaska is over $5 billion

The 2013 value of Senior volunteer work is over $140 million
Seniors provide a majority of the volunteer work in Alaska saving residents and organizations up to $140 million. A significant number of Seniors donate both time and money to schools, Senior centers and charities.

Seniors in sales tax areas contribute more in sales tax revenue per capita than any other group.

James Price
116
Points
James Price 12/21/13 - 01:35 pm
7
1
Seniors consume little in government services

All residents pay sales taxes which raise almost half of all Borough revenue. These taxes pay for schools, which do not provide services for most seniors. Schools consume about 60% of borough funds.

Seniors bring money as consumers and they provide other benefits for our community. They support the hospital through their insurance and use of facilities. Many Borough residents have no insurance, thus Seniors subsidize their use of our hospital.

Charging people taxes, particularly our Seniors, because they are successful is not an equitable solution. If you want Seniors to leave, then treat them poorly and deny them the respect that they deserve.

That's the treatment that they are facing through the financial assault brought by this Assembly ordinance.

If five Assembly members vote for this tax increase it can happen. This act perpetrated by a few angry Assemblymen does not represent the will of this community.

herbtr
122
Points
herbtr 12/22/13 - 07:13 am
3
2
Senior spending

Every senior dollar is worth between 2 and 4 dollars to the local economy. The senior real estate tax savings do not disappear, they go to local businesses and directly support local economies.

Allen
596
Points
Allen 12/21/13 - 04:57 pm
7
0
Seniors Deserve Tax Break

The original 100% Borough property tax exemption for senior owned residences was for Peninsula seniors who were land rich and cash poor -- that hasn't really changed here. Since the housing bubble in the 2000s churned up the housing prices, you can live in a 40 year old broken down dump that the Borough values at $300,000 +.

There are a lot of errors in the posts by jimh and ManInBlack. I don't know where jimh gets his figures, but most small houses (2,000 sf or less) on the Central Peninsula are assessed in the $150,000-$350,000 range. So it's very easy to have a house that is assessed at more than $300,000. And remember, assessments aren't based on your home's condition, just on sales price of similar type houses.

When you are on a fixed income as a senior, then $400 a year can be a big deal. The hardship exemption is not to easy to qualify for, and it is not 100%. Also, the senior exemption discussed in this article is only for Borough taxes, the cities don't have the same exemption. Kenai for example only gives the senior exemption up to the state's $150,000. So Kenai senior residents have to pay Kenai's 4 mill (3.85) tax on their home's value over $150,000.

I personally have no problem giving seniors this exemption (I am not a senior). The total amount of exemptions is a tiny percentage of the Borough budget, it's not worth throwing a fit over. I don't care if our seniors live outside for a few months during the winter. Most of the people I know who get the senior exemption lived here for decades, and worked hard to be able to buy a second small home or trailer outside so they could get some relief from the harsh winters, and in many cases care for their elderly parents.

jlmh
351
Points
jlmh 12/21/13 - 09:04 pm
0
5
The $300,000 limit for the

The $300,000 limit for the senior tax exemption has been on the books since 2007. At issue is whether the new exemption of $50,000 should be tagged on separately. This applies to borough taxes, and has nothing to do with individual cities and their additional taxes.

I have a hard time believing that seniors will flee the state en masse over a $50,000 exemption (equal to a $390 tax burden at most), that is less than the cost of a plane ticket. But to each their own.

The property value figures I retrieved from city-data.com. While there may be a few 2,000 sq. ft. homes on the river that exceed $300,000, I don't think that is a common assessment value. But I'm open to seeing the citations for the $150,000 to $350,000 range you claim is the real average.

The hardship exemption is actually very accommodating, ensuring that seniors pay no more than 2% of their total income on property tax. If they don't qualify, then maybe it's time to convert some of that "land rich, cash poor" and down-size. I have yet to read any convincing anecdotes from seniors who were displaced by the senior property tax exemption limit.

kearbear
85
Points
kearbear 12/22/13 - 08:29 am
5
0
Seniors worked and paid

Seniors worked and paid property taxes on full valuation for 40 years prior to becoming Seniors. At 65 they qualify for a Senior exemption. Some retire, some work part time, some continue full time work. Seniors start building their retirement home during the last five years of their working life.

Many Seniors choose the Kenai Peninsula because of the beautiful scenery and the financial incentive of the Senior property exemption. Seniors purchase the land, the materials and hire the labor locally. Seniors hire contractors, architects, plumbers, carpenters, electricians designers, buy furniture, carpet, sheet rock, wood, tile, curtains, put in wells, septics, driveways, roads, purchase furnaces. Seniors pay sales taxes and delivery fees. All of this using their life time savings and locally borrowed money.

The Senior exemption is a temporary exemption. Some Seniors develop serious health problems and pass away soon after they turn 65, some live another 10 to 15 years, some find it too hard and sell out. When they do, assessments return to full assessed value and a hefty tax bill is collected on a beautiful home, that never would have been built in the first place, if it wasn't for the attractive tax incentive. It's temporary, but it brings millions of dollars to the peninsula.

RaySouthwell
953
Points
RaySouthwell 12/22/13 - 09:24 am
0
0
Compounded interest

It's always about money. He who controls money controls everything. I wonder what our Borough's interest payments are? Infrastructure cost money. Often we fight the taxes we pay for such projects. In 1975 Alaska established a Bond Bank. It worked out great. Cutting the interest payments for Borough's like ours.

But we all want to save more money. Create a public Bank of Alaska and get an even cheaper rate for infrastructure projects. And the better news is, interest payments will stay in the State and help fund Alaska. Not a new idea. Bank of North Dakota did it in 1919. It is the only public bank in the USA. Watch their history here.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L75oinBuY1g

ptzsr1
142
Points
ptzsr1 12/25/13 - 07:28 am
1
1
Mayor Navarre & Assembly

AN open letter sent to Mayor Navarre and all Assembly members:

My name is Peter Zuyus, Sr.. I am 68 years old and live on the Kenai Peninsula in the Homer area. My wife and I are seniors directly affected by Ordinance 2013-36 that has been brought to the assembly for consideration.

We moved to the KPB after traveling throughout the state searching for the best place to retire. In addition to the beauty of the KPB, the borough touted the Unlimited senior real estate exemption, which helped solidify our decision to retire here. We moved to the area several years before reaching 65 and spent a substantial sum on our home and improvements under the false premise that the KPB had made a commitment to its seniors for the unlimited exemption, only to find that after turning 65 that promise to seniors was taken away.

In 2007 the exemption was reduced from Unlimited to $320,000; was voted to increase to $350,000 in 2013; and now, some members of the assembly want to reduce that amount to $300,000.

A biased and dubious example of the exemption is being used as reason to lower the exemption value. However, nowhere in the 2007 Ordinance, does that example wording appear. It is NOT part of the Ordinance, so why even give it any consideration? There is no reason.

Ordinance 2013-36 is an Ordinance built upon a false premise.

There are several items we ask that you consider when voting.

1. The Residential Exemption has NO mention of surrendering the residential exemption upon turning 65 years old. It specifically states the exemption is in effect "while owned and occupied by the owner".

2. The Senior Exemption has NO mention of surrendering the Residential Exemption upon turning 65 years old.

The two exemptions are exclusive of each other and should be value added together for a total of a $350,000 exemption available for qualified seniors.

Unfortunately I will not be able to attend the Jan. 7 Assembly meeting. Our family is sitting in hospice with our 6 year old grand daughter, Scarlett Olivia Zuyus, who has a rare and terminal form of brain cancer. She fought a year long battle, but has been sent home from St. Jude's Medical Center to spend her last days with family and we are with her and them at this time.

I ask that my Assembly District 8 representative, Mr. Bill Smith read this letter into the Assembly Record at the Jan. 7 meeting, prior to any vote, so that my objection to Ordinance 2013-36 is on record with the Borough.

I respectfully submit that the assembly vote “NO” on Ordinance 2013-36.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

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