Fred Meyer grocery tax now turned off

Although the ordinance allowing a sales tax to be collected in Soldotna on non-prepared food items was repealed in the Oct. 6 regular election, customers at Fred Meyer were still paying sales taxes Tuesday, a week after the proposition took effect.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Proposition 1, which passed with a 16 percent margin, repealed a 2008 ordinance allowing general law cities to levy their own sales taxes on nonprepared food items the way home rule cities do. The proposition went into effect immediately upon certification, which occurred at the borough assembly meeting Oct. 13.

Craig Chapman, the finance director for the borough, said the borough initially sent out letters in late September to the retailers in Seldovia and Soldotna who would be affected by the change. They followed up with another letter sent Oct. 9, which was followed by a phone call, Chapman said.

“We contacted Fred Meyer, and have relayed that to them,” Chapman said Tuesday. “We thought that that change would be implemented no later than this morning.”

However, Fred Meyer was still charging sales tax up until Tuesday of this week. Melinda Merrill, a spokesperson for Fred Meyer, said a delay in communications after the proposition passed caused the tax to remain in place.

Fred Meyer is owned by Kroger Co., which operates its accounting services out of Cincinnati, Ohio. Though the letter was mailed out Oct. 9 and the accounting department received the phone call from the borough, the main office has not yet received it, Merrill said.

“This was put on the mail on Oct. 9, and didn’t leave Kenai until Oct. 12,” Merrill said. “Cincinnati hasn’t received the letter yet. It says it was to take effect Oct. 14. We’ve corrected it now — the tax is turned off at the Soldotna store.”

Merrill said customers who made purchases in the days since Oct. 14 can go to the store and request a refund of the tax charged. Customers who have a receipt, used their rewards card or a credit or debit card to make the purchase can be easily receive a refund, using those systems to track the purchase. Those who paid with cash will have to speak with a manager to facilitate the refund, she said.

“We just want our customers to know that we’re really sorry about this, and we’ll do our best to remedy the situation,” Merrill said.

Elizabeth Earl is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.