Letters to the Editor

Posted: Tuesday, November 12, 2002

City of Kenai's tax policies driving businesses away

The issue with the tax on aircraft owners in Kenai is not about aircraft owners being unwilling to pay their share in taxes, but paying unfair taxes. The borough changed the law in order to remove the unfair taxation on boat owners and aircraft owners in the borough. A $250,000 motor home paid nothing in personal property tax while the aircraft and boat owners were being unjustly taxed.

The borough assembly spent a couple of years working on the issue of fair taxes and how not to lose tax revenue when they changed the exemption on the aircraft and boat owners. Prior to changing the regulation for the $100,000 exemption, the borough was able to place the tax burden equitably on everyone's automobile registration. The result was a net gain in taxes collected, and the tax burden was equitably shared.

The city of Kenai has opted to ignore the regulation, and the pilots have had no recourse but to move their aircraft or pay an unfair tax. I don't believe anyone is willing to pay unfair taxes whether it is $5 or several hundred.

The loss of one aircraft to the city of Kenai has a much larger impact than the tax on one aircraft. The aircraft owners who have moved their aircraft are purchasing fuel at other locations, and the city is losing the sales tax on every gallon of fuel purchased, which also affects another airport business. (A 30-gallon fillup with a $2.50 per gallon fuel price equates to a sales tax of $3.88 per trip.) Aircraft maintenance on the owners who have left also is affecting maintenance facilities in Kenai, and once again, the taxes the city would have collected.

The same aircraft owner is no longer shopping in Kenai, buying auto fuel or spending time in the restaurants; all are a loss to the businesses of Kenai, as well as the tax base in the city.

When a local air carrier added two Beech 1990 aircraft to provide better, safer service to Kenai, the tax consequences of such a move as compared to competing with the tax structure in Anchorage rendered them uncompetitive.

The city council and mayor of Kenai are incorrect to think that aircraft owners have an unlimited source of funds to operate their aircraft. If an annual inspection costs more than expected or the cost of insurance increases, the number of flight hours a pilot may be able to enjoy his or her aircraft will decline. One way to be able to purchase more fuel for the aircraft is to quit paying unfair taxes, park outside of Kenai and use the tax savings for fuel.

James Barsis


Fake bird entrapment poor use of state's money, workers' time

The recent police report article, "Fish-wildlife troopers net 8 for shooting fake birds" is another instance of government spending gone wide off the mark. Fake bird entrapment? Get real!

Do the Alaska people now need to be entrapped by high-priced Fish and Wildlife troopers? Is that all they have to do in the fall and winter seasons, after summer's snagging and bag limit checks? Why not lay off time for people who are out of work? Next I guess we need these government workers on tight budgets to request more money so they can set up roadblocks to check for proper seat belt usage.

We Alaska citizens are sure foolish with our hard-earned money. I hope our new governor corrects these types of outrages expenses.

Michael Carpenter


Borough, school district, cities need to learn to live with less

It is time for borough, school district and city elected officials and high level administrators to wake up to reality. See the election results.

See governor-elect Murkowski's campaign promises. Unless you think he outright lied to get elected, you should reread what he said.

The state is spending far more than it takes in. The Constitutional Budget Reserve will run out. Murkowski shot Ulmer down for proposing new taxes. He promises none. No raid on the permanent fund earnings. Any new resource development will likely cost the state money long before, if ever, it adds to state revenue. The only choice he has is to cut the budget.

All of you want more money, clamoring for more state funding is not the realistic solution. Expect less -- not more. Become more efficient. Reduce administrative costs.

It is time for all to review your operations to reduce spending. No more crying wolf as all did to shoot down the sales tax initiative. It won't help with a revenue short state.

The current borough administration first came into office on a less government platform, yet proposed to build a multimillion-dollar addition to the borough administration building to house the growing borough and school district administrations. What happened to less government?

The school district administration has steadily grown over the past 20 years -- at a much higher rate than student enrollment. Why? It is time for the school board to start asking hard questions instead of being a rubber stamp. We cannot afford the administrative costs of a school district five times as large. Enrollment is declining. Revenues will decline. Start reducing administrative costs now.

The people kept the sales tax for you to use. I don't think the people will think well of crying wolf to get even higher local taxes. The cutting of delivery of services ploy, while maintaining administrative costs, to try to force more local taxes will not make it. Start living within your means and expect to deal with reduced state funding in the very near future.

William J. Phillips


Recycling worth the effort; life of landfill space extended

As a follow-up to recent recycling articles, the Kenai Peninsula Green Star wishes to stress that recycling is thriving. The Kenai Peninsula Borough in conjunction with Green Star, ReGroup and local landfill contractors has a premiere program, which includes recycling and reduction as a key component to waste management.

Peninsula Sanitation commented that prices currently are low for marketing recyclables. This is true, however, most materials continue to be recycled cost effectively, since the borough still realizes savings due to diverting materials from the landfill, which saves landfill closure and new cell development costs.

Green Star encourages participation in local recycling efforts. Recyclables accepted at the Central Peninsula Landfill include newspaper, office paper, cardboard, glass, aluminum, clear plastic milk jugs, gillnet fish web, tin cans, appliances, junk vehicles, phone books, used oil, vehicle batteries and Christmas trees.

Just the simple effort of increased newspaper and cardboard recycling can save substantial landfill space. These paper products alone make up more than 30 percent of the waste stream.

Please leave a message at 262-4849 if you would like information regarding Green Star, ReGroup or the borough recycling programs.

Marie Vinson

Green Star Coordinator


Allowing all U.S. citizens equal access to fish, game unrealistic

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a public discussion panel headed by Mark Duda, director of Responsive Management. At the end of the discussion period, it was clear everyone wanted to protect the early run salmon fishery from overharvest; how to do this was left open for debate. As part of that process, a couple points need to be discussed further.

A couple of people expressed the view that all U.S. citizens (285 million) should have equal access to our Kenai salmon. I believe that's a throwback to days long ago when it was thought there was an endless supply of fish. Today we know that is not so.

For comparison we only need to look at the big game management in the Lower 48. There, most states reserve 90 to 98 percent of their big game harvest for their residents, as they have learned long ago that there are more than enough hunters to destroy their herds.

To further define why this is so, let me use the following example: I'm a Soldotna resident; I pay $2,000 a year in taxes and spend about $35,000 a year, almost all going to local businesses; I support some civic groups and do my part to make this a better place in which to live. For my contribution, the state allows me to harvest five king salmon and put some halibut in the freezer. By comparison, a tourist comes up for a week, spends $1,500, kills five kings, grabs 200 pounds of halibut and goes home, end of his responsibility and commitment to the community.

Now multiply this example by 100 families and tourists: 100 families would contribute $3.5 million dollars to the community, 100 tourists would contribute only $150,000 to the community.

The other states long ago learned the value of their residents and go to great lengths to protect those limited resources for their residents. Alaska needs to follow suit.

In summary I'd like to see the following:

1. Reduce the number of guides in the Kenai and Kasilof rivers -- probably through attrition to minimize the impact to the current guides. Let the price per trip rise, as I believe we are giving the opportunity to catch a trophy king way too cheaply.

2. Restrict fishing in known spawning areas.

3. Maybe keep the early run season closed until the Alaska Department of Fish and Game feels escapement quotas will be met.

4. Freeze the number of guides in the saltwater fishery; at least until we're sure that fishery is not being over harvested.

Today the Kenai Peninsula offers some great fishing; however, it is plagued by easy access and vulnerable to exploitation. We need to remember it wasn't too many years ago when Kachemak Bay offered a good king crab and dungeness crab fishery; today they are zero. It is time for the state to ensure this does not happen to our other fisheries.

A point of interest -- 50 guides doesn't sound like a large number, but consider this equation: 50 guides x 4 lines x 5 days a week x 13 weeks equals the potential to kill 13,000 kings in one season. Even at 50 percent success, it's 6,500 kings, a large number. In the saltwater: 50 guides, same number of days, assume 100 pounds per line equals 1.3 million pounds of halibut per year, a very large number -- only 50 guides!

John Ossowski


Boosting commercial fishing is way to help state, not one community

Wild salmon vs. farmed salmon is not the issue; learning to stay competitive is.

Commercial fishing is a resource that Alaska has had since the beginning of statehood and many years before. Alaska marketers should have spent more money in the push for improving fresh and frozen seafood and in marketing alone a very long time ago.

In the question of why not focus more on the sport fishing and tourism industry: Why not build a state where most of its residents are economically independent instead of ignoring that and bringing in outsiders for boosting the already OK businesses and communities?

In not competing with farmed fish, what would we Alaskans portray if we didn't try to sell or buy our own fresh, wild salmon? It would be the same situation as if Maine were to stop marketing lobsters because of the farmed lobster competition.

I guess it would be more important to market sport fishing instead of commercial fishing if that's all you know and care about. But for the rest of the state, commercial fishing was here long before tourism, and it is our way of life. So take a minute to think not of boosting your own community, think of helping Alaskans as a whole.

Helena Batman


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