Voters approve both propositions

Measures extend 3% temporary sales tax, open city funds for improvement projects

Posted: Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Juneau residents overwhelming approved the two initiatives on the ballot in Tuesday's city election, according to preliminary results released that evening.

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Proposition 1, to renew the city's temporary 3 percent sales tax, won by a landslide, with 3,995 "yes" votes and 2,261 "no" votes.

Proposition 2 was a bit closer, with 3,365 votes in favor of the measure and 2,693 opposed. The proposition gives the city greater flexibility on using interest from voter-approved bonds on capital projects other than those for which the bonds were issued.

Approval of Proposition 1 means the city's sales tax will continue at its current 5 percent rate. A majority "no" vote would have allowed a 3 percent temporary tax to expire on June 30, 2007. The 3 percent sales tax has been approved every time it has been on the ballot since 1983 and brings Juneau approximately $21 million per year, according to city data.

Jim Lyman, a retired Juneau resident, voted "yes" on the proposition, saying it constitutes such a high proportion of the city's income that if it were eliminated, it would cost taxpayers in other areas.

"The money would have to come from somewhere and property taxes are already high," Lyman said.

The tax measure will be in effect until June 30, 2012, and is expected to bring in $100 million to $125 million over the next five years. It pays for general government operations, the city's street and sidewalk projects, and other public services.

With the passage of Proposition 2, the Juneau Assembly will now have the power to redirect money earned from interest and profits from city investments to various projects. Previously, if a bond was passed by voters for a specific construction project, money from that bond could only be used for that project.

Pending final approval of Tuesday's vote, the Assembly will be able to allocate unused money from bonds to other projects.

Keith Peeples, a Mendenhall Valley resident and facilities manager for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, voted against the measure.

"I didn't think the proposition was written very well," Peeples said. "I had to read it three times (to understand it)."

He also said he believed that if money is designated for one project, "we oughtn't siphon it off to put in other places."

Carl Ferlauto, a 10-year resident of Juneau and a civil engineer, voted in favor of the proposition, explaining that "when you plan projects, you are so far ahead, you sometimes end up with additional revenue."

Approval of the proposition will give the Assembly and School Board flexibility to determine where money is most needed, according to city officials.

Only one-quarter of Juneau voters turned out for Tuesday's election, according to the preliminary results. Absentee ballots and those considered questionable still need to be counted, with results expected Friday.

• Brittany Retherford can be reached at brittany.retherford@juneauempire.com.



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