The Tax Policy Subcommittee submitted its recommendations on 15 tax proposals to the Assembly Finance Committee on Sept. 16, 2005. A few proposals are: (1) Tax all personal and commercial boats at four mills; (2) Reduce and, over time, eliminate the senior sales tax exemption; (3) Charge a fee to appeal excessive property tax assessments.
Should the public be burdened with new taxes when the city had a surplus in sales-tax revenue last year?
The subcommittee claims that those who don't own boats are subsidizing those who do. How? The 3,000 boat owners in Juneau add significantly to the economics of this community. We buy fishing gear, outdoor clothing, crab pots, line and electronics. We hire welders, mechanics, electricians and boat haulers. Will Juneauites continue to be able to afford boats? Will the new tax be the straw that breaks the boater's back?
The city will gain in tax revenue this year, given the price of boat fuel. The cost to the consumer has now doubled, along with the city sales-tax receipts for that fuel. Why not use this bonanza from fuel sales to offset the money the city wants from boats? Or why not reduce the sales tax on home heating fuel? That's a recommendation that would really help families.
Increasing senior tax burden sends the wrong message to this vital segment of our community. Why make it harder for our elders to live here? Given the rewards reaped from recent property assessments, and the fact that the city reports that the cost of an average low-income home in Juneau has reached $240,000, the property tax exemption for seniors set many years ago at $150,000 should be increased to $240,000.
The justification for charging the public to appeal excessive property-tax assessments is to discourage "frivolous" appeals. If assessments weren't excessive, there would be little to appeal. The best way to discourage frivolous appeals is to discourage frivolous property assessments.
Has the subcommittee considered the windfall the state is now receiving in oil-tax revenue? Will the Legislature adjust up the revenue sharing with municipalities as they did in the past? New city taxation should be saved for leaner times.
Will we know the Assembly's position on these taxes when we go to vote on the other tax proposals on the Oct. 4 ballot?