Borough voters should decide bed-tax proposal

Over the past weeks the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly has heard testimony about  Ordinance 2014-25, to put before the voters, the option for a 4 percent transient accommodations tax.

I urge them to pass this, and let us have that vote.   

Seward, a Home Rule City with certain powers, instituted a 4 percent bed tax 14 years ago. It has had no  negative impact, either within or outside the city. Seward took action to help promote business, and keep the community viable and retain jobs. Revenues and accommodations within the city limits of Seward increased 218 percent over these years. Half the income raised by the tax goes to the city coffers, the other half goes to promote tourism. Seward is very happy with it.

Go to Anchorage, and you will pay a 12 percent bed tax, applied daily. And Anchorage does have a lot more to offer besides a water slide as suggested by one recent speaker. No, they have no sales tax, but Anchorage’s property taxes are four times that of those on the Kenai Peninsula.

Open the June issue of Alaska Magazine: Pages 70 to 74 are special advertising for the Mat-Su Borough, which funds its tourism industry a great deal more than the Kenai Peninsula. The Kenai Peninsula does not have special advertising pages in the magazine. Yes, the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council, or KPTMC, advertises, but is very limited with funding. The transient accommodations tax would enable KPTMC to do so much more. Supporting and encouraging local business enhances the bottom line for all of us. And that includes all of us who pay property taxes.

As assembly member Bill Smith, the sponsor of the proposed ordinance, points out, this tax also will ease the property tax burden as state revenues decline. The public  needs the opportunity to speak to  it, via the ballot box.

I see this as a huge win-win. The city of Homer stands to gain  $400,000 per year. Considering recent budget issues, certainly a beneficial shot in the arm. That will be likewise for other cities in the borough.

In spite of the recent action by the Homer Chamber of Commerce, I sincerely hope the Homer City Council will support putting this issue before the voters, as the city of Soldotna and the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce have done.

In a recent article in the Anchorage Daily News, Craig Medred noted the number of nonresident fishing licenses purchased last year; that demonstrates the huge interest for recreational fishing in Alaska.  Recreational fishing is an economic engine on the Kenai, but we have so much more to offer: our trails, our parks, our beautiful peninsula that needs to see more national and international advertising. That can only happen with adequate funding.

 Please encourage the assembly to pass ordinance 2014-25, and  let us, the voters, make this so important decision.

Milli Martin is a longtime resident and community volunteer, serving on both the Kenai Peninsula Borough School Board and the assembly.