Voters to select sales tax projects

Assembly nixes option to lump all capital proposals together

Posted: Friday, August 26, 2005

The Juneau Assembly decided Thursday to let voters pick which projects should be funded with an extended 1 percent sales tax in the Oct. 4 city election.

The panel voted 8-1 with Assemblyman Merrill Sanford dissenting.

"It has been very difficult to get to this point," said Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho, adding the Assembly recognized that the public wants to vote on the projects separately.

Leaders have debated the sales tax for a year. As more projects were added, the Assembly proposed extending the sales tax from five to seven years, and eventually settled on nine.

During the meeting, the Assembly decided not to place an alternative plan on the ballot. That option would have lumped together the six projects, which would have been paid for by the tax over nine years.

Sanford thought the projects were all worthy, but said he was leery of the city tying up its money for nine years.

"Something bigger and more important might come up in five years," Sanford said.

Voters will able to allocate revenue to any of three categories: the expansion of Juneau International Airport, the building of the Dimond Park Community Center aquatic facility, and other city projects that include building a downtown parking garage, maintaining city docks and harbors and extending sewer lines.

Voters could approve all three categories, pick some or reject all. What they choose to spend the money on will determine how long the sales tax will be in place.

"I'm confident the voters will support each of these projects," Botelho said.

The aquatic center costs $26 million to build and needs 1 percent sales tax revenue for almost four years. The airport renovation costs $20 million and requires two years of sales tax revenue.

The other projects need almost three years of revenue. The city would spend $7.7 million building a parking garage downtown and $7.5 million expanding Juneau's sewer system. Eaglecrest Ski Area would get $800,000 for a mid-mountain lift. The lift would allow the ski area to open early.

The Docks and Harbors Department would get $2.5 million for deferred maintenance and Don Statter Small Boat Harbor expansion.

If voters approve all projects, the sales tax will run for nine years and generate an estimated $64.5 million.

Juneau already has a temporary 1 percent sales tax, but it is set to expire Dec. 31. It needs voters' approval for renewal.

• Andrew Petty can be reached at

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