Council must be hard of hearing

  • Wednesday, January 15, 2014 4:35pm
  • News

The Homer City Council needs to come up with a new song and dance. While it may be hard for some of them to believe, residents are tired of hearing the same old refrain, which is always a version of: “If you want ____________ (fill in the blank with what’s on your wish list for the city to accomplish), are you willing to do away with seasonal sales tax exemption on nonprepared food items?”

Call us stupid — the council certainly implies that those who favor the exemption must not understand the most basic rules of budgeting — but we don’t believe residents are willing to give up the exemption. And we don’t think they’re stupid. And we don’t believe they have sent the council mixed messages about it.

Here are the crystal clear messages we’ve heard every time citizens have voted on this issue and every time it’s been debated:

1.Residents don’t want their food to be taxed. They believe taxing food is regressive and hurts the poor. They favor a seasonal sales tax exemption on nonprepared food items. In fact, if asked, we suspect most residents would support a year-round sales tax exemption on food. Would that really put the city on the road to ruin?

2.Residents want the council to look at other ways to fund programs and services that need funding. This is not “cognitive dissonance.” It’s urging council members to find new ways to do things. Is that really asking too much of our elected leaders?

Using funding for recreation programs — perhaps even a community recreation center — as the carrot to get rid of the seasonal sales tax exemption  on food is disingenuous at best. The city attorney has told council members that they cannot bind future councils to the proposed .25 percent sales tax dedication to parks and recreation programs. That should be enough to doom the proposal before it even gets off the ground.

If the council wants to dedicate sales tax funds to parks and recreation programs then it should do so cleanly and in a more permanent way: Ask voters if they want to raise the sales tax by .25 percent and dedicate those funds to parks and recreation programs. 

But leave the seasonal tax exemption on food alone.

There may be a better way, however.

ReCreate Rec, a citizen group supporting community recreation, is talking to Kenai Peninsula Borough officials about creating a recreation service area that would include and tax southern peninsula residents outside of Homer. This is doing what the council continually chides residents to do: get involved and find ways to pay for what you want.

That’s why it’s difficult to understand why the council is moving ahead with the idea of repealing the seasonal sales tax exemption on food and asking voters if they want to dedicate .25 percent of sales tax revenue to a parks and recreation department. A citizens group is exploring ideas to pay for what they want and the council starts running in a different direction. To some observers, it looks like the council will use any excuse to get rid of the food exemption.

Council members should let ReCreate Rec come up with some proposals before deciding that eliminating the sales tax exemption on food is the only way to raise funding for parks and recreation — or any other worthy program. 

And they should try to hear what voters have said repeatedly: We don’t want food to be taxed. Period.

More in News

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Anchor Point house fire leaves one dead, one in serious condition

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Snow and debris from an avalanche can be seen near Mile 45 on the Seward Highway on Monday, March 29, 2021. (Photo courtesy Goldie Shealy)
Center promotes avalanche awareness

The Chugach Avalanche Center in Girdwood will begin its daily forecasts Saturday.

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Seawatch: Historic sockeye run predicted for Bristol Bay

ADF&G says 2022 run could break this year’s record

The entrance to the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area in the Tongass National Forest was covered in snow on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, a day after federal authorities announced the next step in restoring the 2001 Roadless Rule on the forest. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Feds put freeze on Roadless Rule rollback

On the Roadless Rule again.

Alaska man pleads not guilty to threatening 2 US senators

If convicted, he could face a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison.

Commercial fishing vessels are seen here on the Kenai River on July 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Fishing industry takes a hit during pandemic

Overall fish harvesting jobs in Alaska dropped by the widest margin since 2000 — 14.1% — in 2020.

FILE - The Olympic rings stand atop a sign at the entrance to the Squaw Valley Ski Resort in Olympic Valley, Calif., on July 8, 2020. U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, declared "squaw" to be a derogatory term and said she is taking steps to remove the term from federal government use and to replace other derogatory place names. The popular California ski resort changed its name to Palisades Tahoe earlier this year. (AP Photo/Haven Daley, File)
Interior secretary seeks to rid U.S. of derogatory place names

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Friday formally declared… Continue reading

Most Read