Change in senior exemption prudent

Note: The following statement is my personal opinion and does not represent the views of the Kenai Peninsula Borough or the KPB Assembly.

A year ago, when I was running for the District 9 seat on our Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly, I was asked many times about my position on the senior property tax exemption. I explained that I support a senior tax exemption and that, if elected, I would be involved in a comprehensive review of the borough tax code which could include changes to the current exemptions.

That review has taken place and I have participated fully in the process — attending work sessions, reviewing proposals and amendments, listening to and talking with constituents, and finally, voting on the ordinance to modify the existing property tax exemption.

I, along with the majority of the assembly, voted to approve placing Proposition 4 on the ballot. Now it is up to the residents of the borough to participate by voting on Oct. 4.

I will be voting “Yes” on Proposition 4, even though it might not be in my best financial interest to do so. After thorough public review and discussion, I believe it is a fair and reasonable change to our property tax policies.

If Proposition 4 passes, those who currently receive a $350,000 exemption (one of the most generous in the state) will not lose it or even see it reduced. Those of us (including me) who were born after 1953, will see a gradual reduction in exempt property values over a period of seven years. Even at the lowest level, seniors would continue to receive a $200,000 property exemption, still more generous than dozens of other municipalities in Alaska. Additionally, seniors will not have to pay more than 2 percent of their household income towards property tax due to the hardship provision in our tax code.

If the proposition does not pass, the value of exempt properties in the borough will continue to grow, shifting the tax burden to younger residents and working families. Without some modifications to the current exemptions, there is a very real possibility that mill rates will be increased in order to make up for the increasing proportion of exempt properties.

I urge you to vote “Yes” on Proposition 4.

Willy Dunne