District 4, Linda Murphy: Borough must balance taxes, services

Posted: Sunday, October 03, 2010

Occupation: Retired

Business and professional organizations and other interests: Member, National Association of Parliamentarians; Past Board Member, Hospice of the Central Peninsula; President, Birch Ridge Golf Association; Past President, International Institute of Municipal Clerks

Previous political experience: Seward City Clerk, 1981-1997; Kenai Peninsula Borough Clerk, 1997-2005; Lt. Governor Fran Ulmer's Elections Transition Team; United Nations Observer for Municipal Elections in Kosovo (2002); Member, Department of Defense Federal Voting Assistance Program Committee to review absentee voting options and procedures for members of the military serving outside the country (1997-98); KPB Planning Commission Member, 2008-Present

1. Would you have voted to introduce the CPGH Inc. letter of intent ordinance? Why or why not?

No. Rather than expanding the discussion regarding the future of the hospital, this ordinance limited that discussion to one entity and one option. This issue is far from over and will be one of the most important ones facing the new Assembly. Everyone agrees that impending reductions in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements will negatively impact the hospital's financial position. It is imperative that the Assembly work closely with the elected service area board, the operating board, the hospital administration and the borough administration to explore all of the available options before making any decision regarding sale or lease of our hospital.

2. Should a borough manager be hired? Why or why not?

No. The borough mayor is elected by borough voters and is, therefore, answerable to the voters for his actions (or inaction) and decisions. He is the only elected official answerable to ALL of the voters on the peninsula. A borough manager would be answerable to nine assembly members and could keep his job so long as he keeps five of those members happy with his performance. This issue has arisen because of dissatisfaction on the part of some with the current mayor's performance. That is not a good enough reason to change a form of government that has worked well for this borough since its inception. If you are unhappy with the mayor, the simple solution is to vote for someone else next October.

3. Should property tax rates be lowered, raised or remain the same?

In 2006, the borough mill rate was 6.5 mills. This year, the rate is 4.5 mills. At the end of FY 2009, the borough's fund balance (our savings account) totaled just over $26 Million. The total fund balance at the end of this fiscal year is projected to be $19.4 Million. The borough cannot continue to offset lower property taxes by dipping into our savings account to balance the borough budget. While a tax increase may not be on the horizon in the next year or so, the reality is that the borough is going to have to look at both cuts to the borough budget, a possible reduction in our discretionary tax exemptions and a tax increase to keep us fiscally sound. Nobody likes to pay taxes, but that is the price we pay to receive the many services local government provides.

4. How do you feel about the prepared food sales tax exemption?

I voted no on this proposition when it came before the voters in 2008. Traditionally, sales tax revenues have gone primarily to funding for our public schools, and non-prepared foods make up a good portion of sales tax revenue coming into the borough. To me, the few dollars I spend on sales tax at the grocery store are my fair contribution to our children's education. That being said, the voters have spoken on this issue and I do not intend to sponsor legislation that would overturn this exemption.

5. What's the value of local government?

Local government has a greater day-to-day impact on each of us than any other branch of government. From road maintenance to emergency medical services, from your local fire department to emergency response to natural disasters, from the quality of our schools and our teachers to habitat protection, local government officials make decisions that affect your everyday life. Local ordinances affect the zoning (or lack thereof) of our neighborhoods, the permitting process for industrial activities, the placement and operation of solid waste disposal sites, the amount and types of development allowed on our waterways, the types and amount of property, sales and use taxes you will pay - the list goes on and on.

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