Around the State

Posted: Monday, November 07, 2005

Juneau assemblyman proposes cutting city fuel oil tax

JUNEAU — A member of the Juneau Assembly has proposed giving residents a break on heating oil.

Assemblyman Johan Dybdahl proposed halting city tax on heating oil sold from January through March. The measure could come up for a vote later this month.

The price of heating oil in Juneau has increased this fall to $2.88 per gallon, compared to $1.45 per gallon last fall. The national average is about $2.57.

If approved, the exemption would go into effect Jan. 1.

The city collects a 5 percent tax on heating oil. For the quarter under consideration, the city estimates the exemption would cost $440,000.

Wanamaker said the measure's intentions are good but there is too much about the proposal that the city does not know. Losing the money could mean cutting services or employment in the future, he said. Some Juneau homes are heated by electricity. Wanamaker said he does not want those taxpayers to shoulder the tax burden.

Union disputes will likely go before court

FAIRBANKS — Contract disputes between the city of Fairbanks and its public safety unions will likely go before the Alaska Supreme Court by next year, attorneys said.

The city is facing lawsuits from the Fairbanks Fire Fighters Association Local 1324 and the Public Safety Employees Association for not paying all the costs of health care, training or leave time.

In 2003, city administrators decided they could not afford all the provisions in the city union contracts. They cited the loss of state municipal aid, rising health care costs and an unexpected nearly $85 million debt to the Public Employees' Retirement System as reasons. The city council agreed.

The unions said the city cannot break a negotiated and approved contract. They filed labor complaints and lawsuits following the city's action.

''It's not so much the fact they can't non-fund, it's that they can't pick and choose what they cannot fund,'' said Dominic Lorenzo, a city firefighter and paramedic who is the local firefighter union secretary.

Kodiak Assembly wants to reopen oil spill suit

KODIAK — The Kodiak Island Borough Assembly has passed a resolution asking the U.S. Department of Justice and the state to reopen the 1991 civil lawsuit stemming from the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

The resolution passed 6-1.

Of the $1-billion settlement, $100 million was held back only to be paid if there were long-term, unforeseen damages that justified further restoration.

''There's more than ample justification to go back for that $100 million,'' said Borough Mayor Jerome Selby, citing extensive and lingering damage to fisheries and the coast.

Selby said Kodiak's fish researchers studying the effects of the spill would be direct beneficiaries of the money.

— The Associated Press

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