Taxes too high to meet 'wants'

Letter to the editor

Posted: Friday, July 22, 2005

Sunday's My Turn column, titled "City should take another look at proposed sales tax priorities," expressed what many in the community are saying - prioritize our tax expenditures. I am respectful of the commitment our Juneau Assembly members make on behalf of our community. However, it is beginning to seem that our local capital project decisions are being made under the philosophy of "wants" vs. "needs."

As a long-term homeowner and resident of the community, I am concerned about the increases in our local taxes. Mr. Flint and Ms. McConnochie articulated what I hear repeatedly in the community: "The Assembly's inclusion of a second city-owned and operated swimming pool and water park is irresponsible." It is especially egregious when one considers that our leadership chose this course of action over that of private enterprise.

How would residents of Fairbanks, Mat-Su and Anchorage respond if their local government discouraged a private business project so that they could fund a bigger and better one with tax dollars?

While I am certainly not a local government or tax expert, perhaps our local leadership would benefit from a healthy Proposition 13 tax debate. For those unfamiliar with California's tax revolt, Google "Proposition 13." To paraphrase an article from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association - with home values escalating, long-term homeowners were being taxed out of their homes.

Proposition 13 restricted the maximum tax rate at 1 percent and limited increases in assessed valuation to 2 percent. The difference between the property's actual market value and its taxable value disappear when the property changes hands. When sold, local assessors reassess the property at full market value. This favors long-term homeowners and allows them to remain in their home in retirement. While Alaska is certainly not California - nor should we emulate their various crises - a discussion on limiting taxes in Juneau in certainly overdue.

Taxes on residences are increasing at 10 percent to 12 percent a year. Real wages and population growth are declining. Does it make sense to fund an expensive list of "wants"? Our infrastructure needs - such as sewer, land privatization and airport improvements - should take priority.

Thank you to our former Chamber of Commerce leadership for expressing publicly what I hear many homeowners in Juneau discussing. It's time to prioritize our tax expenditures under the heading of community "needs" rather than special constituency "wants."

David Quisenberry


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