Local elected officials offered clarity on some of the community questions on ballot propositions Tuesday at the Kenai and Soldotna Chamber’s joint luncheon.
Kenai Peninsula Borough assembly member Brent Johnson, who introduced a resolution to pose an advisory vote about animal control to non-city residents, spoke about Proposition A. Assembly member Bill Smith addressed Proposition B, which asks for an advisory vote on whether the borough should hold elections by mail.
The process when an animal abuse or neglect complaint is made will remain the same with citizens calling the Alaska State Troopers. But, Johnson said, the troopers have a “gap” right now because the agency doesn’t have a mechanism for caring for rescued animals. If the assembly implements animal control powers, the troopers would then contact the organization the borough has contracted with to take on responsibility for the rescued pets.
If the assembly decided to establish animal control, it would not include a dogcatcher; it would only be for animal rescue and care, Johnson said.
Proposition A also asks voters in a second question if the borough should impose a mill rate of 0.02 mills on properties outside of cities to pay for domestic animal rescue and care.
“I want this to have a funding mechanism because we cannot continue to go to the budget without coming up with funding mechanisms,” Johnson said.
The proposed tax would generate about $95,000 according to the proposition.
Johnson said if the contracted agency doesn’t use all the money collected by the tax or the tax brings in more funds than expected, the money left over would accumulate.
“I think the borough assembly, though, is going to have authority over this (accumulated) money, and we’re certainly going to have authority over how this ordinance gets written up,” Johnson said.
If the voters are for limited animal control but against the tax, Johnson said he would not support it if it’s not funded.
“It is not designed to solve the problem,” Johnson said. “It is designed to address the problem and to do something.”
Smith introduced an ordinance to the assembly to hold borough elections by mail. The assembly postponed the ordinance and passed a resolution to ask voters for their view on the issue.
He said there is no guarantee that if voters approve of by-mail elections that the assembly will pass it. However, if the voters are against voting by mail, it is “pretty much assured” the assembly will not enact it.
“It’s not going to hurt, I think, to try something different,” Smith said. “If it doesn’t work out, we can always go back to the old precinct system.”
While going to vote-by-mail ballots is estimated to increase costs by about $18,000 annually, if voter turnout increases, elections would cost less per vote, Smith said.
“We have a long history of people coming to the polls and voting and a lot of people are really comfortable with that,” Smith said.
However he said the traditional method of voting and the education about voting has only gotten the borough about a 20 percent voter turnout.
Addressing the question of potential for voter fraud, Smith said in the borough’s six vote-by-mail precincts there has been no evidence of system abuse.
Smith said vote-by-mail elections would allow for more careful consideration because voters could sit down with the election information and fill out their ballots.
“I think having a ballot in-hand at your kitchen table along with the voter information pamphlet is going to be helpful to make informed votes,” Smith said.
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org