Voters support sales tax, school renovation bonds

Propositions 1 and 5 pass by large margin

Posted: Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Juneau voters overwhelmingly voted in the Tuesday city election in favor of extending a temporary 1 percent sales tax and providing $22 million in bonds for renovation of two elementary schools.

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Proposition 1, a temporary 1 percent sales tax, passed with 61 percent support in Tuesday's unofficial results. Proposition 5, offering $22.4 million for school renovations, passed with 67 percent of voters' support.

Merrill Sanford, Juneau Assembly member and deputy mayor, said the affirmative reaction of Juneau voters for Proposition 1 shows wide support of the city's use of sales tax.

"I haven't seen it voted down in years," he said.

The temporary tax, already in place, was scheduled to expire next September. With voter approval, the additional 1 percent sales tax will now extend into 2013.

Assembly member Robert Doll said the favorable vote was an indirect voice of approval for the Assembly's list of intended improvements within the city's infrastructure.

"A 2,000-vote majority is a strong endorsement," Doll said. The benefit of a "temporary tax" is the process of voter review, he said.

Of the total 5 percent sales tax assessed in Juneau, only 1 percent is permanent.

The city earmarked the estimated $43 million in additional tax revenue for six projects to improve the municipality, including sewer service extension, Don Statter Boat Harbor renovations, city building maintenance and a new Public Works Department shop.

Merrill said that spending tens of millions of dollars on local capital improvement projects also bodes well for the men and women who work the trades in Juneau.

"The work will keep our people busy," he said.

Of the total funds the tax extension in Proposition 1 raises, $4 million will chip away at the overall renovations bill to modernize Harborview and Glacier Valley elementary schools. Neither school has been renovated in at least a generation.

"We're thrilled and will get straight to work," Peggy Cowan, superintendent of the Juneau School District, said. The project plans are nearly complete and cost estimates are done. Cowan said both school renovations would go out for bids after the new year.

The list includes improvements in handicap accessibility, new heating and ventilation systems and fire alarms.

Of the estimated $22.4 million cost to rework both schools, the city expects the state to pick up 70 percent of the bill, leaving Juneau property owners to cover about $5 million.

Proposition 1 tax money will make the bond payments for the first five years of 10-year bonds.

This vote shows the continued community support for education, Cowan said.

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