As times change, so must tax exemption

Thank you for the great article in Tuesday’s paper about Ballot Proposition 4, concerning the Senior Citizen Property Tax exemption. I am a senior, and qualify, and have, both for the 100 percent exemption that existed starting in 1986 and the $300,000 exemption as of 2007.

When Stan Thompson was Mayor, he feared for the homesteaders who still owned their homestead lands, and wanting to protect them, he offered to the voters the option of the 100 percent exemption for residents aged 65 and older. That was a huge blessing for many, and brought many new seniors to the Peninsula.

The State mandated the first $150,000 exemption of property value for seniors, and during the early 1980s when the legislation was passed, the State also reimbursed the boroughs for the loss of tax revenue from that exemption. As state income tightened, the state ceased the reimbursement, but, the mandate of AS 29.45.030(e) remains.

By 2007 it was obvious to the Borough that change had to be made, as the 100 percent property tax exemption was creating a significant financial short fall for the borough, and to continue it, would have required an increase of property taxes. And so the Borough asked the voters to limit the exemption to an additional $150,000 above the state mandated $150,000 exemption, and to that was added the also voter approved residential exemption of $50,000. Today, Seniors over 65, and disabled Veterans enjoy a $350,000 property tax exemption.

And yes, that is attractive to seniors. Nowhere else in the state is this available, and nowhere else in the country besides. At least not that I am aware of.

Ballot Proposition 4 puts before the voters of the borough the option of slowly phasing out the Borough’s $150,000 exemption. When the 100 percent exemption was changed to $150,000 the fear was Seniors would leave. The opposite has happened. I do not expect them to leave now, I certainly won’t, and I hope everyone will consider how unfair this exemption is to their neighbors that have to make it up. To say nothing for the Service Areas, such as the hospitals, the roads and emergency services that also need that added income to provide services.

I hope the voting public will take a close look at Ballot Proposition 4. If this initiative passes, current Seniors and Veterans will still enjoy the $350,000 total property tax exemption, as they are grandfathered. And future Seniors will see that slight decline, to eventually, in 2024 remain at $200,000. Tell me, where else in this country is that available? The Borough also offers a hardship exemption if property taxes, with the exemption, exceed 2 percent of family income. No one will lose their property or their home. I know Borough staff will be going around the Peninsula to further explain the dramatic impact this exemption has made and will make in the future, as state funding is withdrawn by the legislature. Someone has to make it up. I believe we all have an obligation to do that. And I fully support the Borough in this effort. I sincerely hope the voters will too.


Milli Martin