Assembly District 1 candidates discuss issues

  • Tuesday, September 29, 2015 8:58pm
  • Opinion

1. Has the borough struck the proper balance between sales tax and property tax? Are changes to the tax structure needed?

Robin Davis: I believe the balance between sales tax and property tax is appropriate. For instance, the FY 2016 assembly forecast for real property revenue is approximately $26M and the sales tax revenue is approximately $31M. I would not recommend changes to the tax structure as this time, but would focus instead on the recommendations of the Health Care Task Force and the Marijuana Task Force.

Gary Knopp: I think the existing balance between sales tax and property tax is weighted fairly evenly today. I also think a thorough review of all the tax codes is past due. The present borough administration is currently in the process of this review. There are definitely some changes to our tax code that should be made. This review is one of my priorities and motivation in seeking office again.

David Wartinbee: I believe that the Borough has a fairly evenly distributed tax revenue income. Most of its income comes from Sales taxes and Property taxes and they are fairly well balanced. Other major sources of income include the State of Alaska and Fees for Borough services. The balance of income sources is currently working well and there seems to be no compelling need for changes at this time. However, changes might be considered when fiscal needs dictate.

While changes don’t seem necessary right now, should the state fiscal problems trickle down to the Borough, then a thorough review of taxation may be warranted. It is good management practice to periodically review our income stream and this is scheduled to be done in the near future.

Kelly Wolf: With more than fifty years of patch work legislation the KPB tax codes are at best a jumbled mess and ts time to clean this up.

Example; Currently borough residents who receive no road service, and land fill service however they pay taxes for them, is that fair? Some corporations on the Kenai are required to collect sales tax on individual businesses that are structured under one corporation and billed on a single invoice. I believe its time we have a hard look at our tax codes and house clean the attic of our borough government of its codes. So business and individuals can both prosper.

2. What role should the assembly play in addressing health care issues?

Davis: The purpose of the KPB Health Care Task Force is “to evaluate current resources and gaps and to recommend a comprehensive, integrated, care delivery model which will focus on both individual and community health for the future of our borough.” The assembly should support, monitor the progress, carefully evaluate the recommendations, and expect results from the Health Care Task Force!

Knopp: As owners of the hospital the assembly’s role in health care is a shared fiduciary responsibility with the entities that we contract with to operate our hospitals (CPGH & SPH). The goal is to ensure the hospitals remain viable entities and to provide the best health care possible. In these times of constant change in health care there is frequent disagreement and discussion on how best to move forward but the goal never changes.

Wartinbee: Health care is a major component in the great quality of life we enjoy on the Kenai Peninsula. The Borough is essentially the “land lord” for our hospitals and allows the hospital administrations the freedom to run the hospitals as efficient, sustaining, non-profit entities. By maintaining this relationship with our hospitals, the Borough Assembly has helped the hospitals grow and provide services the communities need and want. This is a very positive relationship for the entire peninsula.

Because we have “a seat at the table” with our hospital administrations, we can encourage cost-cutting efforts as well as encourage the establishment of care modalities each community needs.

The hospitals are separately operated and that reflects the different sizes of the patient sources and the needs of the different communities. Presently, it is probably best that they remain separate so they can be sensitive to local community demands for health care.

Wolf: Currently the mayor has a task force of individuals that he selected looking at the issues of of health care on the Peninsula. While I supported the funding of this task force I’m very apprehensive to what may come out of this task force. As it seems that so far that the discussion is to combine the South Peninsula Hospital with the Central Peninsula Hospital. This concerns me greatly and I wish to go on record now that as the incumbent assembly member I oppose this concept deeply. The residents outside of the service area of the South Peninsula Hospital should not be responsible for subsidizing Homers hospital. I do not see that this is in the best interest of all the residents of the Kenai Peninsula, but only a few.

3. With the state’s fiscal crisis in mind, what are your funding priorities for the borough?

Davis: First, during this period of low oil prices, I promise to do my best to keep people employed and our local businesses viable.

Second, I am concerned about sufficient Capital Project funding to sustain borough infrastructure. During this period of low oil prices, it is imperative that we prioritize our limited resources to essential needs. As Assembly District 1 representative, I want to see greater communication, and prioritization of limited capital project funds, of maintenance man-hours, and of material dollars between the Borough and the School District.

Knopp: I think the borough assembly, administration, service areas and community organizations are aware of the current fiscal realities. I also think they are able to separate the wants from the needs. I will continue to advocate for projects that are much needed and identified through the public process. My priorities as always are education funding, roads and solid waste.

Wartinbee: Just because the state faces a fiscal crisis doesn’t mean the needs of our community are to be forgotten. The Borough’s largest expenditures are involved with education and that priority should not change. The Borough will need to continue providing basic community needs like emergency services along with waste management. Even in hard times, we will want basic administrative services like planning, assessing, taxation, and property management within the Borough. Our Peninsula hospitals must be supported so they can continue to provide health care for our neighbors. Remember, we get sick in good times and bad.

The Borough has already significantly cut capital expenditures so that area probably won’t provide much cost-savings. However, we will need to look for ways to improve efficiency and cut waste. The Borough Administration and the Assembly members must be working together to maintain our quality of life during lean times.

Wolf: When it comes to the fiscal issues of the state those issues are coming our way soon. The Kenai Peninsula Borough is required to provide road service, Land fill service and partially fund K-12 education. Beyond that I believe everything should be on the table, to discuss with the people what they want and NEED? I believe we cannot continue these levels of government as we are “taking” from our children’s future prosperity. Like many across the peninsula when the cupboards become bare it’s time to trim back. My priorities are those that listed above.

4. What approach should the borough take to regulating marijuana?

Davis: Regarding the legalization of marijuana, “The train has left the station.” However, as Assembly District 1 representative, I want to ensure the following:

— Legalization of marijuana on the Kenai Peninsula does not make the existing drug problem worse

— Our children and families must be protected from all aspects of the legalization of marijuana.

Knopp: I think there are two parts to this issue: legalization and commercialization. The conversations around this topic are in regards to regulating the commercialization of this product. In my opinion there is no sense of urgency to do this. The borough should wait until the state has completed their work on the issue. I would like to see the borough wait until state regulations are in place, brainstorm with other municipalities as they create their customized regulations, seek a lot of public opinion from local residents and then create regulations based on these conversations.

Wartinbee: Marijuana is now legal in Alaska and it provides potential areas for problems as well as opportunities for community growth. As an overall vision, I believe we need to prioritize protecting our children and residents from potential harm while treating this as any other agricultural business with cultivation, marketing, and usage. This is not the time for fear mongering but a time to protect our children while guiding a new business as it becomes a legitimate part of our community.

The State of Alaska has been studying these issues and should provide state rules and guidelines on Nov 24th. Once those statewide guidelines are delivered, the boroughs and cities can start making their decisions.

The Borough’s Marijuana Task Force is looking into these issues and will, after careful consideration, make recommendations to the Administration and the Assembly. This approach is a very good one and will result in wise decisions.

Wolf: As an elected borough Assemblymen, I brought this issue of marijuana up before and I filled the assembly chambers. Mainly with those who opposed my idea of letting the people of the borough vote on cultivation. While many were respectful about their views. some were completely disrespectfully and unprofessional butt’s in their attempt to push their agenda. However many others made their views known and I listened. Personally I like to see the people pack the chambers of their local government. As I believe it makes government better, because they pay attention more. Do I believe the Kenai Peninsula Borough needs to weight in on the marijuana issue “NO”.

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