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City panel OKs propositions for fall election

Assembly committee divvies distribution of sales tax funds

Posted: Thursday, July 12, 2007

If you walked in late to Wednesday's Juneau Assembly Finance Committee meeting, you could have mistaken it for a fantasy football draft.

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But instead of armchair quarterbacks vying for the top prospects, Assembly members were prioritizing in a rudimentary chart on a dry-erase board how the city might fund its top capital improvement projects with the temporary sales tax.

The committee also approved propositions to issue general obligation bonds of $5 million for baseball fields, $19.8 million for a swimming pool and $20.2 million in school renovations.

Four proposed measures for the October city ballot were approved at the Wednesday meeting. The Juneau Assembly must first approve the propositions, totaling $45 million dollars in general obligation bonds, before they can be placed on the ballot.

Much of the meeting was spent deciding how to divvy up the $43 million expected to be generated by a five-year extension of the temporary 1 percent sales tax, set to expire Oct. 1, 2008.

After much deliberation, committee members decided the $8.6 million generated annually from the 1 percent sales tax would be broken down as follows: $2 million for a consolidated public works facility; $2 million for airport improvements; $1 million for harbor improvements; $2 million for sewer extension; $800,000 for deferred maintenance; and $800,000 for school debt.

Concerns were raised by several Assembly members about bringing another proposition to the voters that would ask them to fund school construction with more general obligation bonds.

"I would like to see it come out of the sales tax, not the property tax," Assembly member Merrill Sanford said.

The Finance Committee looked at two school renovation projects: $6.1 million for Glacier Valley Elementary and a $14.1 million for Harborview Elementary.

Finance Director Craig Duncan said the debt service paid by the city for 10-year general obligation bonds to cover the $20.2 million would be $770,000 a year, if the projects qualified for 70 percent state reimbursement. The Finance Committee decided to earmark $800,000 annually from the sales tax, but it must still ask the voters to approve the $20.2 million in general obligation bonds because the city is ultimately responsible for payment to qualify for the bonds.

The committee also approved a proposition for artificial turf baseball and softball fields at Adair-Kennedy and Melvin Park totaling $5 million. It also approved a bond proposition for a $19.8 million swimming pool facility at Dimond Park.

Assembly member Sara Chambers was unhappy with how the committee was talking about spending the taxpayers' money.

"I find it frustrating that we are throwing millions of dollars around on a white board with seeming less care than the average family puts toward their budget," she said.

Chambers said such flippant decisions with the taxpayers' hard-earned money will resonate in the community.

"I find the process frustrating and I think the average taxpayer finds it frustrating," she said.

The bond propositions will be introduced at the next regular Assembly meeting on Aug. 6. Duncan said the propositions must be adopted at the regular Assembly meeting on Aug. 20 to make it on the ballot.

• Eric Morrison can be

reached at 523-2269 or eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.



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