Q&A: Candidates for District 5 assembly seat share views

  • Wednesday, October 1, 2014 8:22pm
  • Opinion

1. If elected, what issues do you feel require immediate attention?

Marty Anderson: I believe our community needs a five year and 10 year plan to address the needs of our senior population, education and jobs for our younger adults. We must have a community plan to deal with the very possible influx of person due to the growth of oil and gas projects including the LNG line and plant. I feel we have done well as a community with internal needs and growth but must be aware of the growth on the remaining Peninsula communities and how it will affect ours both positively and negatively.

LaDawn Druce: No district in the borough was more impacted by last summer’s Funny River Fire than District 5. Through the tremendous efforts of the men and women working to prevent damage to property and protect life and by the fortune of the wind, we avoided a catastrophe of immense proportion. The borough needs to carefully study the lessons learned from this event and plan for future preparation for my district and the rest of the Peninsula. Second would be addressing the results of the three ballot propositions. While Proposition A and B are advisory votes, if supported by the voters, the assembly, while not bound to do so, should deal with them in a meaningful way. Third would be to work with state and federal elected leaders on the legislative priorities for the upcoming session. Finally, continue to address road improvements for the residents of my district.

Stan Welles: Expenses and property rights.

2. Has the borough struck the proper balance between sales tax and property tax? Are there inequities within the borough’s tax structure that should be addressed?

Anderson: I think the current structure is fair but will not support further taxation of land owners to grow more services. I believe it is unjust to tax one group of people for a service that all benefit from.

Druce: According to the FY 15 Annual Budget the general fund is supported by $32,919,112 in property tax revenue and $30,560,501 in sales tax revenue. The voters in 2013 voted to approve increasing the personal exemption on real property from $20,000 to $50,000. This reduced taxable assessed values by approximately $290,000,000 resulting in a decrease in real property tax revenue of approximately $2,350,000. The exempting of non- prepared food from sales tax during September 1st through May 31st continues to affect sales tax revenue. The annual impact is approximately $ 3, 2000,000. If elected my goal would be to keep a balance in the tax structure to ensure fair property taxes, and reasonable sales taxes. Taxes are necessary to ensure a healthy local government and needed services. At the same time I would work to keep government expenditures as low as possible.

Welles: Both are too high in my opinion. I believe that the upcoming budget is in the $70 million dollar range. We have a population of about 56,000. Does it really take $1,250 to govern each of our Borough residents each year? Doesn’t that seem insane to you?

3. What role should the assembly play in addressing local healthcare issues?

Anderson: I believe health care should be an individual issue with a person and their employer. For those who are limited physically or mentally, then healthcare should be a state issue.

Druce: The borough mayor, being the administrator of the lease agreement with Central Peninsula Hospital, will bring the 2017 renewal for the lease to the assembly for approval. The assembly can approve and/or amend the lease operating agreement. The assembly should assume responsibility in making certain they are addressing the local health care needs of the community as requested by the hospital including the recommendations of the hospital service area board and the findings of the Community Health Needs Assessment survey. In a community with a relative small population, we are fortunate to have an outstanding facility such as Central Peninsula Hospital.

Welles: I’m currently doing a lot of homework on that issue. I am persuaded that there are many facets to it from (a) should the Borough even be in the medical care business to (b) should we take an $80 million dollar bond to expand it.

4. Funding for education is the largest item in the borough budget. What is your philosophy on funding for the school district?

Anderson: As a current school board member, and for the last 11 years, I have some thoughts on this subject. First we should not have reconfigurations/consolidations unless there is a direct financial and educational benefit. Second, we should not spend funds we do not have, or do not know we will have. I voted against the last budget because we did not know we would receive adequate funds from the state or borough, yet we obligated the district and public to a contract we could not afford at the time. I am completely against spending money that we may get. Education is a huge part of assuring our democracy and I have a great respect for those who toil in the education system but if we spend recklessly, we could end of like the federal government, 18 trillion in debt. The borough used to fund to the cap, but has decreased the % for valid reasons. I would continue to support appropriate funding of our education system with accountability paramount.

Druce: Having been a public educator my entire career and married to a retired high school teacher of 41 years, funding for our schools is extremely important to me. I agree with Mayor Navarre that the borough should provide “the highest level of local educational funding borough residents can reasonably afford and sustain.” For FY 15, the Borough’s contribution was $44,000,000; approximately 2 million under the cap allowed by law.The Borough’s sales tax revenue is estimated to fund $30,560,501 of that amount. Funding education is a proactive, responsible choice. A quality school district and well educated children ensure our communities remain vibrant, healthy places to live. Great public schools are an investment in our future. Having lived in this community for twenty-two years now, it is exciting to see many of our best and brightest young people staying or returning to the peninsula to begin their careers and raise families.

Welles: I think we have educational problems beyond financial. Stanford economist Eric Hanushek and two colleagues ranked the 50 American States and 57 foreign countries using standardized math tests as a proxy for educational achievement.

Only 6% of the U. S. students perform at the advanced proficiency level in math. Of the 107 entities, the U. S. ranked 49th and the State of Alaska ranked 52nd. (Reference, “Your Child Left Behind” by Amanda Ripley, ‘The Atlantic’, December 2010, page 94)

And financially we have increased instructional costs (per the 2013 CAFR) $42 million dollars from 2005 to 2013, added over 190 additional staff while the student count went down well over 500 students.

This doesn’t make any sense to me. In sympathy with the teachers, I think they sometimes earn combat pay! Our District Superintendent Dr. Steve Atwater allowed that there have been occasions, in which, teachers have been attacked.

5. What experience will you draw on as you examine the borough’s $70 million-plus budget?

Anderson: Having been involved in more than a half dozen various boards, including the KPBSD (two years as treasurer) I will look at the history, rational and practices to determine how we have successful reserves. A surplus dose not just happen but was the collective wisdom and decisions of the current and past assembly. I will do my best to be educated on the practices of my predecessors.

Druce: Whether in the home, business or government, budgets pose challenges. Responsible stewardship of the public’s money is a trust. Over the past several years I have attended numerous budget sessions. For example the school district’s total revenue budget for FY 15 is $161,206,486. I do work to have a better comprehension of budgets and have found the key is asking questions to gain a clearer understanding. Being elected to the assembly is a tremendous responsibility and being a steward of the public’s monies is an obligation I would take very seriously.

Welles: Analytical. Too often we act as if more money will always solve a problem. Whenever possible I like to find metrics — parameters — that measure productivity.

My formal education includes a B. S. Degree from the University of Colorado and a Master’s Degree in Aerospace Structures from the University of Toronto Institute of Aerospace Studies. Both are specialty branches of Mechanical Engineering.

I’ve participated in the design and FAA Certification of aircraft from sailplanes, crop-dusters, light aircraft, business jets, commuters up to Boeing aircraft including the 747, B2 Stealth Bomber, 777, and last 737 series aircraft in a number of different states.

I’ve also been Senior Mechanical Engineer taking care of $34 million worth of trains running on 92 miles of track 5,000 ft literally underneath the Continental Divide west of Denver producing a million dollars a day of molybdenum for Amax.

We currently own and operate Alaska Aircraft Engineering.

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