With Significant Challenges Facing Ketchikan, I Am Stepping Up to Run For Borough MayorBy Rodney Dial
August 01, 2019
Three years ago, I ran for a Borough Assembly position after many of you asked me step up for our town.
As you probably remember, the borough budget had a nearly million dollar deficit just a few years ago. I spent the first year of my term (2016) going through every aspect of the budget for each department. I made several recommendations for reductions, offered ways to increase efficiency, submitted no expenses and turned down all travel. For more information please see my letters from 2016/17.
By my second year, it became clear that the best opportunity to deal with our future budget concerns was to seek additional/continued federal/state support, and demand fair treatment from the state during the budgetary crisis.
In short, we have balanced the budget, fully funded our schools, funded basic services and non-profits WITHOUT a sales or property tax increase for three years. To be clear, our success is a joint effort of the Assembly/Mayor, Borough Manager and staff. On the Assembly we are not Republicans or Democrats… just citizens… and we have worked well together for the last several years.
We have the best and most dedicated employees in the state and we are truly leading the way among Alaskan communities. Our Finance Director is a “Rock Star” in my opinion for identifying a way to generate hundreds of thousands more per year in interest on borough reserves (enough to pay for our non-profits btw).
In the last few years our little town has developed far more influence in DC than any other community in Alaska, including Anchorage/Fairbanks.
Working with our congressional delegation, we continue to push for, and have obtained Federal funds for our Schools, PILT for the Federal lands in the Borough, and received changes in national legislation in support of our community.
I just learned days ago that a proposal I developed and presented in DC will be bringing in funding for our Fire Services. Additionally, I had a teleconference with Whitehouse staff on July 23rd, in preparation for another visit later this year. I’ve also been appointed to the National Association of Counties Rural Action Caucus as a voting member. This will allow me to recommend national legislation and policy changes that support our borough.
We have made incredible progress as a community over the last few years and are getting our problems resolved while holding the line on taxes.
Looking forward we have significant challenges that need to be addressed. The recently approved teacher contracts, including health care cost increases of nearly 20% will weigh on the budget. Borough Insurance costs are up 60% due to reasons out of our control. Additionally, it appears that School Bond debt reimbursement and/or Community Assistance could be ended by the state this year or next.
If you know me, you realize I am one of the most fiscally responsible people you will ever meet. I scrutinize every government expense. Just this year I have personally paid for my own borough travel/hotel and perdiem costs to save taxpayer money. I have spent more to serve the borough this year than I have made from the borough. I’m not saying that to brag, I enjoy being on the Assembly and am honored to serve. I just want you to know I value every dollar of your money and will lead by example.
All that to say, we have to pay our bills and I developed two ways we can do that without a sales or property tax rate increase. The first was a plan to impose modest taxes on tourism. Long story short, I was unable to get consensus from the Assembly so at present that idea is off the table.
The second idea is to raise the sales tax cap from $1000 to $2000 or higher. The benefit of this idea is that it will prevent a MASSIVE property tax increase(s) in the future. It will also go unnoticed for about 99% of the purchases local citizens make in a year. However, this will allow a mechanism to tax high end tourist purchases such as jewelry, etc. Even with an increase in our cap, it will still be far less than other communities like Juneau.
Many have asked if we could generate more revenue from marijuana sales. That is more of a revenue generator for the City and would not do much for the Borough; so the short answer is no.
A few other things to consider. The sales tax RATE can not be raised without a vote of the people and I would not be in support of that. This would affect every purchase we make and make our businesses less competitive. We don’t want to make food and the necessities of life more expensive.
I am also not in favor of a Property Tax rate increase for a number of reasons. First, 100% of borough property tax already goes to education and we need to diversify school funding to protect from economic downturns. Second, property assessments are rising faster than inflation and amount to a yearly property tax increase already (we have no control of this / State mandated). Third, a recent housing needs assessment found that the average house price already exceeds the average family income/ability to afford and that most renters are cost burdened. Raising the property tax rate will only increase gentrification concerns, increase homelessness and make housing more unaffordable for our youth and elders.
The last three years prove that we can fund the things important to our community while controlling the cost of government; however the sooner we plan, the easier the solution.
I have recently been asked by Borough Mayor Landis, City Council Members and many others in our community to run for Borough Mayor this fall. Mayor Landis, who has done an outstanding job, will not be able to run for Mayor again due to term limits. For those reasons and many more, I am announcing that I will be running for Borough Mayor this fall.
One of the primary responsibilities of the Borough Mayor is to advocate for our community and even if you have disagreed with me in the past… I hope you realize that no one advocates harder for us than I do. I want to live here for the rest of my life, just like you, and I don’t want to see us make the mistakes other communities have.
The Mayor position is non-partisan and I will do my best to represent the best interests of all citizens if elected. I will also demand we are treated fairly by the State and Federal Government… that we fund essential services… that we take care of our elders… and do that while maintaining the growth and cost of government.
It’s incredibly important that we build on the progress we have made on the federal level and continue to work with our Congressional delegation and the Whitehouse to solve our local problems. This will put us in a better position to deal with cuts in state funding. We have the momentum, let’s keep it going!
My daughter (Megan Flora) will have a booth at the Blueberry Art’s Festival (#93) and will have a sign up sheet for signatures to qualify me for the election. If you are willing to support me, please visit Megan and ask her for the petition.
Thank you so much Ketchikan… it has been an honor to serve and I appreciate the opportunity regardless if I become Borough Mayor or not. I will do my best to help get our finances in order before my term on the Assembly is over in October, and my budget proposal will be heard in the Assembly in August.
Stay Strong Ktown!
Received July 29, 2019 - Published August 01, 2019
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