Voices of the Peninsula: Does home rule really equal more taxes?

  • By Tim Cashman
  • Tuesday, May 3, 2016 4:41pm
  • Opinion

Since as long as I can remember the City of Soldotna has had a low sales tax rate (3 percent) and a low property tax rate (currently .5 mills) for its residents and business owners. The low tax rates have made Soldotna an extremely desirable place to live, work, and invest. The revenues collected from sales and property taxes have also allowed the City of Soldotna to provide a high level of services for all residents of the Kenai Peninsula regardless of their actual location of residence. These services include but are not limited to: A beautiful new library, a sports center complex, world class parks with boardwalks into the river, campgrounds, movies in the park, winter activities, plowed and sanded streets to schools, storefront beautification projects, Police protection, an amazing and committed staff and the list goes on and on. None of these services mentioned require a person to be a resident of Soldotna to enjoy them as they were paid for in large part by the taxes collected from all the visitors to our community.

The City of Soldotna has a special election coming up on May 10 to begin the process of adopting a Home Rule Charter. It is particularly important that you understand what prompted the election and why a Yes vote is so important to all the residents of Soldotna.

Recently the City of Soldotna lost its ability to collect sales tax on non-prepared food due to a borough wide vote even though the actual residents of Soldotna voted to retain the tax by a 63 percent majority. The borough vote eliminated Soldotna’s sales tax on virtually all store bought food items for 9 months of the year. The estimated annual loss of revenue is around 1.2 million dollars. This taxing change has significantly shifted the taxing burden for services from the entire community that enjoys them, directly onto the backs of the residents and businesses that fall within the Soldotna City limits. This will create a substantial additional taxing burden to every single renter, property owner, home owner, and individual that owns or operates a business in Soldotna. A 400 percent property tax increase (to 2.0 mills) is currently being proposed but that will likely not be enough to offset the loss of sales tax without significant additional cuts.

The pink pigs you see around town are trying to capitalize on the inherent mistrust of government. As a government skeptic myself I understand the correlation. However, after spending the past several months on the City Council, I can tell you without a doubt, the City Council members representing you are not pink pigs, career politicians or government bureaucrats. They are your friends and neighbors that are taking significant time out of their own busy lives to try and keep Soldotna the very best place to live in Alaska. Speaking for myself, I firmly believe the Home Rule form of government is absolutely in the best interest of the City of Soldotna and in the best interest of everyone who calls Soldotna their home or place of business.

To correctly and honestly use the math you see on the pink pig you should know: Home Rule = lower overall taxes for the residents and businesses in Soldotna.

A Yes Vote on Home Rule will allow the City of Soldotna to have the same form of government as Kenai, Seward, Anchorage, Fairbanks, Palmer and seven other Alaska municipalities. Home Rule will allow the residents of Soldotna to decide for themselves if they would like to retain the 3 percent sales tax on non-prepared foods or not. Most importantly it will allow residents of the City of Soldotna to control their own destiny and not to be controlled by those around us.

Tim Cashman holds Seat F on the Soldotna City Council and is a Home Rule Charter Commission candidate.