There’s a proverb that says: “The first person to speak always seems right until someone comes and questions him.”
That’s how it feels the discussions on the propositions before voters on Tuesday have gone. On both sides of almost every question, valid points have been made.
After lots of waffling and going back and forth and then back again, we’ve come down on the side of “Yes” for everything. Not without a little trepidation, however. These are uncertain financial times, and if the state doesn’t get its fiscal house in order, local governments are going to feel the crunch — which means local taxpayers are going to feel the crunch. Voting “yes” on some of these issues is not without risk.
Ultimately, however, there may be a bigger risk by not acting now. “No” votes, to borrow a phrase from a former Homer City Council member, mean voters are kicking several proverbial cans down the road to deal with later.
Here’s a little of our reasoning when it comes to the city and borough propositions before voters Tuesday:
Homer Proposition 1: Do voters want to authorize the city of Homer to issue up to $12 million in general obligation bonds to build a police station and increase the sales tax rate from 4.5 to 5.15 percent from April 1 to Sept. 30 to pay off that debt?
Yes. Like others, we regret that the ballot language is “not to exceed” $12 million when those who have been working on the project believe it can be built for less. Nevertheless, we don’t think the police station is something that should wait. There are safety issues with the existing station that will only grow worse with time.
Borough Proposition 1: Do voters want the Kenai Peninsula Borough to issue up to $10.6 million bonds to make improvements at the regional solid waste facility near Soldotna?
Yes. Spending money on garbage is a lot like spending money on new tires. No one likes to do it, but they know it needs to be done. If voters don’t want to spend the money, we need to figure out some other way to pay for the trash we generate. It would be great if those who recycled regularly could be rewarded for their efforts to keep waste out of the landfill.
Borough Proposition 2: Do voters in the South Peninsula Hospital Service Area approve the issuance of up to $4.8 million in general obligation bonds to finance a new operating room air handling/ventilation system and the expansion of Homer Medical Center, which is now owned by South Peninsula Hospital?
Yes. Both of these projects already are under way because they are deemed critical. Bonds are the least expensive way to pay for them — hence, the ballot question. Most of us are all about doing the right things as cheaply as possible, but the borough and hospital officials need to do a better job of explaining how the purchase of Homer Medical Center fits into the future of health care on the southern Kenai Peninsula.
Borough Proposition 3: Should the borough increase the maximum amount of a sale subject to borough sales tax from $500 to $1,000?
Yes. Will the move send people elsewhere to shop for some big ticket items? Maybe. But it’s estimated the change will generate $2.9 million for the borough. The move is not unreasonable and will put the borough’s cap more in line with other communities who have sales tax and a cap — but still under most communities in the state. In Juneau, for example, $12,000 is the maximum amount subject to sales tax.
Borough Proposition 4: Shall the borough phase out the optional senior citizen property tax exemption for new applicants by 2024?
Yes. The borough is only phasing out the optional exemption of $150,000. It’s keeping the state-mandated $150,000 and it will not reduce the $50,000 residential exemption provided to all qualifying residential property owners in the borough, including seniors. The borough will continue to be generous to seniors, but times have changed. To continue to give seniors up to a $350,000 tax exemption just shifts the tax burden to younger residents. If we really want to make the borough an attractive place to raise families, the tax burden must be shared equally.
As always, we don’t care if you agree with us, as long as you vote. Polls are open 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday.