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Temporary sales tax, school bonds pass

Bag tax initiative falls flat

Posted: October 4, 2011 - 11:03pm

City and Borough of Juneau voters approved an extension of a 3 percent temporary sales tax Tuesday night by a more than 2-to-1 margin.

The tax funds core city functions, including emergency services, snow removal, capital projects, youth activities and road repair.

Tuesday’s vote renewed the tax until 2017. It would have expired next year had the vote gone against it.

“The voters have generally been very supportive of this temporary tax over the years, because they see direct benefits from it,” Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho said.

He also said the Assembly prefers to have this portion of the city’s overall 5-percent sales tax renewed periodically, instead of institutionalizing it in the City Charter, even though the money funds so many city functions.

“For the most part, I think Assembly members have been comfortable over the years that taxpayers have been able to periodically express their views on being taxed,” he said.

He said further discussions on the city’s sales taxes may focus on exempting food purchases, altering the rate of tax during certain periods of the year, or even a higher rate, though Botelho did not advocate or oppose any of those ideas. He also pointed out the city will place the 1-percent sales tax dedicated to capital improvements on the ballot in 2012.

Juneau voters also approved bond measures to purchase a ground-source heating pump for Auke Bay Elementary School, and new artificial turf for the field at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.

“One is typical Juneau, supporting youth opportunities,” said Juneau School District Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich. “And the other one is just a great investment in an energy efficient system for one of our elementaries.”

The heating pump has a price tag of $1.4 million, more than an oil- or wood-based system. However, the operating costs of a ground source system are much lower.

New artificial turf will run $1.2 million to replace the existing turf, which is worn in spots and was vandalized earlier this year. Gelbrich said the costs of maintaining artificial turf are much lower than the costs of keeping up with other surfaces.

One measure Juneau voters defeated was a proposal to charge a tax of 15 cents on any plastic bag provided by certain retailers. Nearly 70 percent of ballots came back marked “no” on that measure. If passed, the measure would have only applied to retailers that generate more than $15 million in revenue, such as Fred Meyer or Walmart.

• Contact Deputy Managing Editor Charles Ward at 523-2266 or at charles.ward@juneauempire.com.

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