All 4 borough ballot propositions pass

Posted: Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Kenai Peninsula Borough voters have chosen to limit members of the assembly and school board to no more than two consecutive terms.

They also voted by a wide margin to cap the currently unlimited property tax exemption for seniors.

Meanwhile, voters in the Bear Creek Fire Service Area supported a bond proposition to raise a portion of the money needed to build a new fire station.

Despite the possibility, perhaps even probability, that their decision will send the borough into court, voters chose to impose term limits on Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly and Board of Education seats, limiting members to just two consecutive terms.

Both proposition were backed by the Alliance of Concerned Taxpayers, which worked feverishly last summer to gather the necessary signatures to place the term-limit question before the voters.

Unofficially, Proposition 2, covering the assembly, garnered almost 54 percent of the vote (3,836 to 3,293), and support was found in nearly every precinct.

Proposition 3, a measure imposing similar restrictions on school board members, earned almost 53 percent of the vote (3,751 to 3,358).

Lost in the fog of the public debate over term limits was another controversial measure, Proposition 1, which limited the exemption from property taxes enjoyed by seniors 65 years and older, or their surviving spouses 60 and over.

It passed with a health 56.3 percent of the vote, 4,029 to 3,130.

Currently, seniors pay no taxes on their primary residences no matter what the value. Proposition 1 caps that exemption at the first $300,000, meaning seniors will begin paying property taxes on assessed value in excess of that amount.

Since the 1980s, a state law has exempted seniors from having to pay taxes on the first $150,000 of assessed value on their primary homes. In 1987, a borough ordinance made the exemption unlimited.

In the first decade of the two laws, the pinch on revenues to the borough was eased by a state reimbursement provision covering the state's exemption. However, the state stopped paying in the late 1990s.

This year, the revenue loss is expected to be in the neighborhood of $5 million.

According to borough figures, there are 310 senior homeowners with primary residences valued in excess of $300,000. The voter approval means the borough can now start taxing almost $83 million in currently untaxed value, which would bring in about $450,000 in new revenue to the borough's general fund. That figure will be somewhat higher when service area mill rates are included.

Proposition 1 has another provision for residents on fixed and limited incomes, which would significantly lower their tax if they qualify.

Proposition 4, which passed in Bear Creek by a margin of 128 votes, 187-59, authorizes issuance of $1.4 million in general obligation bonds to help finance a $3.5 million fire station. No bonds would be issued unless the other $2.1 million is found through grants.

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