By Richard Cropp
September 01, 2005
To Mr. Thompson. I didn't mean to offend anyone by my message. I can assure you, no sour grapes and having re-read my message, I did not see, nor wish to apply any angst. I was merely trying to get folks thinking a little. I believe I even admitted in my letter that I did not know the status of the rec center bond. It was more of a question than a statement. I did read in the paper a few weeks ago that the bond had been retired, I just did not know the answer to where the money was now going. I do know how hard the parks and rec department works to keep our field in playable condition and that they have always been great about marking the field for us, keeping the lights on, etc...
I do have to strongly disagree that our youth programs and recreation are luxuries. This community does have a serious and ever growing youth crisis. The levels of crime and drug use by our youth is an area that needs to be seriously addressed and is by no measure a luxury. Our youth programs give literally hundreds if not thousands of young people a chance to participate in organized, supervised, and disciplined activities year round. I am merely guessing, but I think if you would ask members of our local police, AST, and even the local business community if they would rather have kids involved in youth programs or have them hanging out harrassing folks in the mall parking lot or aimlessly roaming the streets, I think they would choose the former.
As Mrs. Lawfer pointed out, the sales tax in Juneau pays for a broad spectrum of community and youth activities ranging from sports, to arts and humanities. I could see so many uses for a little extra funding including of course sports and recreation, but also Youth Court, Scouting, Big Brothers/Sisters, anti-drug education, and many others.
Having lived in seven different states, I do not know of any town in the country that has sales taxes as low as we see them in Alaska. The tourists really would not notice and increase, when they all come from communities that pay well over 6.0% in sales tax, some pay as high as 9.5%. We could even keep the $1000.00 exemption, not that I have ever been able to figure that one out. This year we have had jewelry items sold for more than one million dollars and the buyer only payed taxes on $1000.00, go figure. I guess a person that can afford a one million dollar piece of jewelry cannot afford to pay the taxes on it. Thats what I would call a "luxury".
Part of the makeup that makes a solid community is programs to develope the character of our youth. I only have one minor child left and my kids never played high school sports. I am not involved in our youth programs for the benefit of my own children in particular. I am involved because it is an important cause. Our kids need these programs. They need an outlet where they can learn the importance of being involved in the community, the importance of team work, discipline, and working hard to accomplish hard tasks and the importance of goals and ambitions. This is why I choose to spend my free time, and my not so free time, working with these kids. Our families deserve to have these programs to be affordable. When I first started coaching it cost a varsity football player and his family over $900.00 to play football. We have tried to bring this price down substantially (it now costs about $400.00, including activity fees, registration fees, travel expenses, etc..). Even those families and individuals that do not have kids in our programs benefit from their participation.
I know there is never enough money in any area. We need more money for schools, more money for police and fire protection (especially out in the Borough), more money for community programs, and the list goes on and on. On the other hand, we do have very good schools compared to anywhere I have ever lived. Our teachers are by far the best I have ever seen. Unfortunately, the only way the government can provide money is through taxation. I am as far to the right on taxes as anyone I know. Taxation without responsible government stewardship is as foolish an endeavor as could ever be envisioned. We can certainly afford to have sales tax structure that is inline with the rest of the country. Another one or two percent will not break the budget of most families. Anyone who has ever lived anywhere else in the U.S. knows that we pay far less taxes than most if not all of the country. This is a very good thing. Low taxes can only benefit everyone. Moderate and appropriate taxation, properly manged can also benefit a community. Our seniors are exempt this tax and we have an exemption that limits taxes when we have to make a major purchase. I do realize that all the tax money in the world does not help if it is wasted by government inefficiency and mismanagement. We do need responsible priorities including education and public safety at the top of the list. We probably do not need to pay for two seperate governments in a town of less than 10000 people, that could probably fall under the "luxury" catagory.
Anyway, thanks again to all who write in. As I said in my previous message, I only wanted to start the discussion. As Karen Lawfer attested to, a proper balnce of government support and good old fashined hard work may be the right balance and a good recipe for success. It certainly works in Juneau, why wouldn't it work here.
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