Proposition looks to extend sales tax

Revenue would be spent on Juneau projects

Posted: Sunday, September 16, 2007

Extending the temporary 1 percent sales tax to fund capital improvement projects is one of the issues voters will decide on in the regular city election on Oct. 2.

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Other ballot measures ask whether the city should build a pool in the Mendenhall Valley, return fluoride to the city water supply, fund artificial turf ball fields and spend $22.4 million on renovating Glacier Valley and Harborview elementary schools.

Proposition 1 would extend for another five years a 1 percent temporary sales tax that's set to expire in 2008. If the ballot measure is approved, the tax would continue until 2013.

Proposition One

1% temporary sales tax

Where $43.6 million will go:

• New public works facility: $10 million.

• Sewers: $10 million.

• Airport renovation: $10 million.

• Improvements at Statter Harbor: $5 million.

• Maintenance on city buildings: $4 million.

• Paying off bonds for school renovations: $4 million.

About $43.6 million in revenues generated from the sales tax will be spent on a new public works facility, improving sewers, renovating the Juneau International Airport, building a new recreational boat launch ramp and trailer parking at Don Statter Boat Harbor in Auke Bay and completing deferred maintenance on city buildings and school renovations.

Proposition 1 is tied to Proposition 5, the bond initiative to fund elementary school renovations. About $4 million generated through the temporary sales tax would pay off the bonds. Usually, the city pays for such bonds through property taxes.

Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho supports the sales tax and said it's a major component of the capital projects the city undertakes.

"Juneau voters have been generally supportive of these taxes," Botelho said. "There is a public debate on how we use our taxes, and it is a healthy one."

Juneau Assembly member Sara Chambers said she voted to put the proposition on the ballot because it will fund important projects, but she's wary of always asking voters to extend temporary sales taxes.

"One of the big debates among Assembly members and candidates over the years is should we increase the base sales tax and call it good," Chambers said.

When the next budget cycle comes around, Chambers said she'd push for re-prioritizing the city budget, so that essential government services and maintenance comes from the general fund, rather than the temporary tax.

"I find it fiscally irresponsible for the city to ask the voters to pay even more sales tax to cover something they should be covering out of their general operating budget," Chambers said.

Botelho said the temporary sales taxes preserves some power in voters' hands.

"What we hear from the voters is a desire to occasionally review sales tax burdens. (This system) still preserves the opportunity for the public to tell us we are off track," Botelho said.

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