As a former Juneau Assembly member, I understand the complexities of dealing with local government infrastructure and taxation issues. I certainly support the concept of using sales tax as a revenue source for building needed local infrastructure. Indeed, the Juneau electorate has consistently supported this very cost effective method of financing projects that have contributed to the quality of life in our community. However, in observing the course of action that the borough appears to be pursuing with respect to drafting an ordinance to continue the temporary one-percent sales tax, I would like to express the following concerns.
I am worried that the proposed nine-year time period not only exceeds what local citizens would classify as "temporary," but that it also would preclude the ability of the borough to address other critical needs that would very likely evolve in the community before the nine-year period would be completed.
In an environment in which critical borough infrastructure has been highlighted in recent Empire articles, particularly regarding availability of affordable housing, it seems problematic to us to appear to be identifying a water park project as the city's major priority.
It is also problematic that this aquatic facility would be built at the expense of essential community needs, such as expansion of our sewer infrastructure and improvements to other projects in which the borough already has an investment. Additionally, as veterans of the capital retention efforts in Juneau, I urge Assembly members to reconsider their limited support of the needed upgrades to Juneau International Airport, the gateway to our capital city.
Not wanting to be critical without offering a solution, former Assembly members have offered the following suggestions:
Consider pulling the water park from the sales tax package and placing it before the voters for approval as a general obligation bond. That would take the length of the tax from nine years to five, which would be much more acceptable to voters.
Consider placing the entire package on the ballot as individual items for the voters to consider on their individual merits.
In closing, we ask that the actual needs of the community be prioritized based upon:
Essential infrastructure, sewer infill projects that will help alleviate the housing shortage.
Projects that have a direct relationship to Juneau's many years of "better capital city" efforts, airport improvements.
Projects that relate to city enterprise activities that enhance economic activity in Juneau, and increase opportunities for our citizens, harbors and Eaglecrest.
And at the bottom of the list should be projects that would be nice to have, but can wait until essentials are fully funded.
These proposals are endorsed by former Assembly members George Davidson, Richard Poor, Ken Koelsch, Jamie Parsons, Dennis Egan, Hugh Grant, Rosemary Hagevig, Ralph Kibby, Dale Anderson, Don Etheridge, Fred Baxter, Cathy Munoz, Errol Champion, John MacKinnon, Al Clough and Jeannie Johnson.
Once the needs of the community are properly prioritized, the allocation of sales tax revenue should be treated as an investment in Juneau's future. Hopefully, the projects that are funded will generate a robust return for Juneau residents and not ultimately cost taxpayers an inordinate amount to support once they are built.
Douglas resident Rosemary Hagevig has been a borough property tax payer since 1970. She served two years on the Planning Commission and two terms on the Juneau Assembly.