Council introduces bed-tax idea

Though far from a done deal, the Homer City Council took the first step toward creating a 2.5-percent bed tax when it approved on introduction Ordinance 15-13. That ordinance goes up for second reading and a public hearing at the May 26 regular meeting.

Council member David Lewis introduced the measure to address declining revenues from the state that could support municipal programs like revenue sharing or grants.

“As revenues start shrinking, we’re gong to have to start looking to new sources,” Lewis said.

The city on its own cannot impose a bed tax, and the tax would have to be approved by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly. If the bed-tax ordinance passes, it would put on the October ballot a question asking voters if they approved the tax. If the bed tax passed, it would then go to the assembly. The tax would apply to hotels, motels, inns and bed and breakfast operations and would be added to the city’s 7.5 percent sales tax.

“You go to other places and they have a bed tax,” Lewis said, citing taxes in Anchorage and Seward. “We don’t have one.”

In 2014, the borough assembly did approve putting to the voters the question if they wanted to approve a borough-wide 3-percent bed tax, but borough Mayor Mike Navarre vetoed it. Lewis said Navarre said if Homer was in favor of a bed tax he would not oppose it.

The council also had several groups visit at its Monday meetings, including a delegation from Russia that came during the Committee of the Whole, Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, and Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer (see story, page 1), and firefighter and emergency medical technician graduates from the Homer Volunteer Fire Department’s latest class. Those recruits were sworn in at the meeting.

In other action, the council:

• Approved appointments of Chad Jones, Carrie Harris, David Etzwiler, Shane Monroe, Aryn Young, council members Beau Burgess and David Lewis, Homer Police Chief Mark Robl and Homer Advisory Planning Commissioner Don Stead to the Cannabis Advisory Committee;

• Extended the prisoner meal contract for another year to Homer Senior Citizens Inc.;

• Approved a resolution requesting the North Pacific Fishery Management Council take action to reduce the halibut bycatch allocation in the Bering Sea Aleutian Islands fisheries;

• Passed an ordinance amending how assessments will be done to new subdivisions in the Homer Natural Gas Special Assessment District, and

• Passed an ordinance appropriating $8,500 to Aha Consulting Inc. for city website design and software upgrades.

The next regular meeting of the council is at 6 p.m. May 26, the Tuesday after Memorial Day, in the Cowles Council Chambers, Homer City Hall.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

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