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Biz. leaders weighs in on CBJ shortfall

Juneau Chamber of Commerce against raising property tax

Posted: May 2, 2014 - 12:04am
From left, Lance Stevens, Lorene Palmer and Linda Thomas address the Juneau Chamber of Commerce on the city's impending $15 million budget shortfall at the chamber's weekly luncheon at the Hangar on the Wharf. The chamber is against raising property taxes, one of the mechanisms the city might use to balance the budget.
From left, Lance Stevens, Lorene Palmer and Linda Thomas address the Juneau Chamber of Commerce on the city's impending $15 million budget shortfall at the chamber's weekly luncheon at the Hangar on the Wharf. The chamber is against raising property taxes, one of the mechanisms the city might use to balance the budget.

Juneau’s $15.3 million budget shortfall is “really pretty scary” for Linda Thomas, a member of the Juneau Chamber of Commerce’s Government Affairs Committee.

Members of the committee spoke at the weekly chamber luncheon Thursday at the Hangar on the Wharf, addressing the shortfall and what the chamber thinks the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly should do to fix it.

Thomas said that although the shortfall is something that’s trying to be fixed quickly, it raises questions about Juneau’s economic future. A quick fix won’t do anything to prevent a major budget crunch from happening again the next time around, she said.

“We have a short-term issue right now but there are a lot of red flags for our community,” Thomas said.

She referenced the Juneau Economic Plan, a 10-year economic road map being prepared by McDowell Group and Sheinberg Associates and commissioned by the city. Thomas said Juneau’s flat growth and aging population — as reported by McDowell Group — should be a sign to the Assembly and staff that more long-term budget projections need to be made.

“We’re very lucky at this point that we have a little time to react,” Thomas said of the city budgeting process. The FY 2015 budget must be adopted by July 15, according to city charter.

The Assembly has been meeting as the Assembly Finance Committee each week to discuss what will and won’t be cut to eliminate the shortfall. In addition to $3.6 million in service and job cuts proposed by city manager Kim Kiefer at the beginning of April, she proposed an additional $1.6 million in service and job cuts at Wednesday’s finance committee meeting. Committee chairwoman Karen Crane said at the meeting that her group will have to start making tough decisions in the next two weeks to stay on track to be done by mid-June.

Another proposed component to balancing the city budget is a raise in property tax that would affect every property owner in Juneau. The increase, about 1 percent, would add about $142 in property tax per year on a $300,000 home. Although that sounds like a drop in the bucket, chamber President Elect Lance Stevens said the biggest employers in town would be paying thousands more in taxes. It’s just not good for Juneau businesses, he said, or for attracting more people to town.

A property tax increase would affect everyone from home owners to business owners to renters who will have to absorb their landlords’ extra tax expenses, he said.

“Their costs are going to go up — there’s no way around it,” Stevens said.

Stevens and fellow Government Affairs Committee chairwoman Lorene Palmer spoke at Monday’s Assembly meeting against raising taxes. The Chamber wrote a letter to the Assembly on March 26 with suggestions on balancing the budget. Included in the letter was a recommendation to fix city buildings instead of building new ones. One of those, Palmer said at the chamber lunch, is the new Mendenhall Valley library. The library’s construction bid was awarded to Dawson Construction Inc. for more than $11 million at the Monday Assembly meeting.

“We don’t want new facilities on the roll until we’re taking care of what we have,” Palmer said.

• Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.

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Tom Leston
Tom Leston 05/02/14 - 10:42 am
CBJ has to stop ignoring the

CBJ has to stop ignoring the red flags in our community.

Private businesses should do two things to pitch in and help our economy.

Pay more in property taxes or if they don't like that they should give their employees a raise. Private businesses are seeing profits from local and state funds (public money) being spent on improving infrastructure (roads, communication, energy, waste)
So, their improved returns ($$) should go to increased wages for employees or to property taxes rather than into pockets of business owners. The fact is "trickle down" is not working but wage increases to employees of the private sector will work. Employees are much more likely than any business to spend their increased earnings directly and quickly in our community.

Giving employees a raise will grow the economy from the middle out and we just might start seeing our middle class come back.

CBJ could give a property tax break to the businesses that give wage increases and increase taxes on those that don't.

Ken Hill
Ken Hill 05/03/14 - 08:28 am
Spoken like someone who

Spoken like someone who likely doesn't own their own business.

Janice Murphy
Janice Murphy 05/03/14 - 09:18 am

I'm sorry but I too don't think business owners are due special consideration. As a group you support raising taxes on everyone but yourselves and you have one excuse after another. If you're profiting off of Juneau, then pay your way. Case closed. If you're receiving the benefits of living here, then pay your way. As far as it costing thousands more in taxes for you, it's all relative isn't it. And a special tax should be added to the businesses that open on Memorial Day and close and leave town on Labor Day by the way. Just reduce the $300,000 salary paid to the hospital administrator to $200,000 for example and we've got $100,000 in our coffers. (the last a petty comment I know but ----------just sayn') CBJ, I could help you out of your budget crisis in and hour.

Karl Ashenbrenner
Karl Ashenbrenner 05/04/14 - 09:14 am
How big

would the budget shortfall be if all the businesses that do not turn over their sales tax would pay what they owe the city? It is time to crack down on these fraudsters, no more endless "please pay up" scenarios. Pay what you owe or go to jail and the city will forego the money owed....we already don't get it.

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