For the sole mayoral candidate in Soldotna, current councilman Pete Sprague, quality of life is for city residents is a top priority.
“People have just said how pretty this city looks, how the city is doing well and how our facilities are in good shape,” he said. “We provide a lot for the people of Soldotna and the area and the comment has been made to me ‘please don’t let us go backwards.’ I want to improve on what we’ve got.”
Sprague said he has heard a lot of concern from residents that the city will choose to cut funding for parks or maintain and improve its trail systems, maintain buildings or streets as funding from the state gets lean and the threat of a loss in sales tax revenue looms.
“The council will have to address basically how to make up that (sales tax revenue) shortfall,” he said. “I would think that everything would be on the table. Cuts would be an option. User fees would be an option. Raising property taxes could be an option.”
Sprague said he sees his role as mayor to work with the council, guide it through its budget crunch and, occasionally make use of his veto power to eliminate options he considers untenable for quality of life in the city.
On marijuana regulation, Sprague said he’d like the city to start slow but is open to input from the public on what it would like to see within city limits.
“It’s new ground for us all here in Alaska,” he said.
Sprague said he’d rather not say if he’d ever ingested the substance but added “I went to college in the late 60s.”
When he considers annexation, Sprague said there are three areas he thinks are “prime candidates,” for becoming parts of the city. Those include an area along Funny River road near the airport, another near Skyview High School and a corridor along Kalifornsky Beach Road.
Sprague said he liked the idea of undeveloped area, that could potentially be converted into commercial developments, being added to the city’s territory.
“I’m looking at it, really, from a future sales tax revenue perspective,” he said.
But, for residential areas, Sprague said he could make the argument that people living within the city have a lower total mill rate than those outside in Kenai Peninsula Borough territory.
For Sprague, the enticement of low property taxes within city limits makes him hesitant to argue that property tax revenue could be raised to help deal with a loss in sales tax revenue.
“(It’s) one of the most influential arguments for annexing residents, because your property taxes would be lower,” he said.
Despite the issues facing the city, Sprague said he believed Soldotna’s future to be bright.
“We have a great location. We have a balance of sales tax and property tax, we have the hospital as a driver of the community,” he said. “I don’t know of a better place to live.”
Reach Rashah McChesney at email@example.com.