Citizens need to help council find creative ways to fund services

Thank you, Homer City Council.

Let’s hope this week’s discussion and council vote will preserve the seasonal sales tax exemption on nonprepared food items for good. Canning this perennial discussion is long overdue.

Like others who testified Monday night, we believe a tax on food is regressive.

But more importantly, citizens voted for this tax holiday. Council members need to listen, and they did Monday night.

That, however, doesn’t solve the council’s dilemma of how to provide for services citizens may want if citizens are unwilling to pay for them — at least unwilling to pay for them through a year-round food tax.

The seasonal food tax exemption, however, doesn’t necessarily mean city services eventually must be cut.

It just means the council — and citizens — need to be more creative about how to pay for those city services. Just as residents and small businesses have had to adapt to a changing and tough economy in recent years, the city may need to make additional adjustments. Citizens have been clear that at least one of those adjustments should be left off the table for consideration: the tax holiday on food.

As others have said, the council has other tools at its disposal.

Citizens have an obligation, however, to let the council know what tools the council should be considering, what they are willing to pay for and what they wouldn’t mind seeing cut. The math is really simple: Services can’t cost the city more than the revenue that comes into the city’s coffers. 

Without citizens and the council engaging in a discussion that includes other sources of revenue or potential cuts, the only option left to the council will be just saying “no” to all but essential services.

Keeping the sales tax holiday on food presents the opportunity for Homer — citizens and council alike — to be more creative in how the city’s financial resources are managed.

Plan for the worst

Last weekend’s rescue of an experienced Homer snowmachiner is a cautionary tale for all who venture into the Kenai Peninsula’s wild country: Things can go wrong even if the outing is scheduled to be a short one and you know what you’re doing.

As the adage goes, hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Dress for changing weather. Have food. Have water. Have survival gear. And always let a reliable friend or family member know where you’re going and when you plan to be back.

When someone doesn’t return as scheduled, those reliable friends and family members should never hesitate to call Alaska State Troopers. 

People shouldn’t be embarrassed to report someone missing who then shows up a few minutes later.

“We’d much rather get that call five minutes later saying somebody showed up,” says Alaska State Troopers spokesperson Megan Peters.

The weekend search and rescue also was a great reminder of the wonderful community we live in. Thanks to all who participated in the search and helped write its happy ending.