Better management leads to
By Rodney Dial
April 28, 2010
Mr. Harrington, I am going to assume that your letter and assumption
that taxes in Ketchikan would somehow be lower if we consolidated
a simple attempt to goat me into writing a three page letter
on why you are wrong. I will make that assumption because the
only alternative is simply that you as a government official
are attempting to mislead the public.
This debate was solved quite succinctly and finally mere days
after the FIFTH no consolidation vote by the State of Alaska
Department of Revenue, when they advised the borough if consolidation
had passed we (borough) would have lost approximately 2.2 million
yearly in CST funds.
When you consider that the best case estimates of savings due
to consolidation were 500k (your numbers), consolidation would
have put us in the red by at least 1.7 million per year. This
amount of course, also left out all the increases DUE TO consolidation,
and the risks of service shifting by the state which have cost
other communities that consolidated millions yearly.
As I am sure you remember I warned the commission and you, that
this was a real threat prior to the vote. Your response was
much like House Speaker Pelosi's during the recently passed health
care legislation.e.g. "We (Gov. Officials) know better than
you, and you will appreciate it when it is passed".
Well siras was PROVEN by the State, you were wrong and that is
an undisputable fact. Although the CST funds have limitations
on use, you (local Gov) have been quite creative in using the
money to offset GF spending for items such as airport ferry operations.
The bottom line is that Ketchikan would be a far more expensive
place if consolidation PASSED.
During the consolidation fight I always felt that those of us
against this had the high ground because you (supporters) were
unwilling to admit the true reason government has tried so many
times to push this issue.
You know it, as do the majority who voted against this. This
was always been about transforming two tax districts, e.g. borough
and city, into one. Those living outside the city would experience
a massive tax increase, while those in the city would (hopefully)
experience a slight decline. Digging through hundreds of pages
of documents on this issue you see the belief of people like
you that those living outside the city don't pay their fair share
of the cost of community services.
Unfortunately what you failed to understand was that those living
outside the city made a choice to live without, and subsequently
not pay for the level of services provided in the city, e.g.
24 hr Fire, L.E. Road service, water, sewer, etc. You (borough)
already tax non city residents for other community services such
as the library.
Consolidation would have led to massive increases in local government
and services. Troopers would have eventually been replaced with
new City Police Officers, volunteer fire services would have
been replaced by full time employees, road services would have
been transferred from the State to the new municipality, City
building codes would have been extended into the former borough,
resulting additional city workers for building inspectors, etc.
How do I know this? Because it happened in Juneau, Sitka and
many other communities.
The consolidation commission's attempts to limit this liability
by requiring service district approval in no way bound the state
or new municipality to any course of action. Further, case law
clearly indicated that a municipality may, without a vote, EXTEND
a service district (vs. creating a new one) at their discretion
(e.g. City of Anchorage vs. Hillside homeowners association).
I would also remind you that in the consolidation document the
City of Ketchikan refused to agree to limit future tax increases
to only those approved by a vote of the public. A newly consolidated
government could have raised SALES taxes at any time without
a vote. Currently IN THE BOROUGH a vote IS REQUIRED before a
SALES TAX increase. If consolidation was going to save us so
much money then why wouldn't the city agree to thishmm?
Consolidation would make former borough citizens, now paying
significantly higher taxes, demand the same level of services
enjoyed by city residents, resulting in expanded governmental
programs such as island wide bus service, etc. Perhaps you
should ask the folks on Shoreline if they got their money's worth
when they were incorporated into the city and their property
taxes were doubled.
In the end everyone's taxes would have gone up, just as they
have in EVERY other community that has consolidated. This is
the prime reason that citizens of the Mat-Su and Fairbanks North
Star Boroughs have rejected similar measures.
Your math sir was much like (unfortunately) our federal governments
pay double to save half, or less.
BTW both Sitka and Juneau experienced massive increases in spending
when the boroughs and city's unified. You must have accidentally
left that part out of your letter. If you like I can forward
a copy of the Juneau Government Report documenting this factI
believe I still have a copy from the consolidation fight.
The reason that Sitka and Juneau have lower tax rates is due
to better management, not consolidation. Need I remind you of.
Berth III design and construction mistakes (on going)
Berth IV 100 Million dollar contract,
1.2 million dollar library plans (now obsolete)
9.5 million dollar Whitecliff liability
Etc (I could go on for pages)
Perhaps in my next letter I will add a few pictures of the annual
party you (government) throw for the people of Juneau. You know
the one where Ketchikan tax payers rent the entire Prospector
Restaurant in downtown Juneau and provide free catered food and
alcohol for anyone in Juneau who shows up? (true). I saw quite
a few people getting drunk on my tax dime this year, would have
been nice if they at least said thank you.
If it were not for the prohibition placed on me by my current
job prohibiting me from holding elected office I would challenge
you in the next election, and provide representation for the
people who pay taxes, as you seem to have little desire to do
When you wonder why people have so little faith in their government
may I suggest that you read your letter and think about what
ps: I intend to live in Ketchikan for the rest of my life and
will fight any future consolidation attempt with every fiber
of my being, so bring in on!
Received April 28, 2010 - Published
April 28, 2010
taxes in Ketchikan By John Harrington
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