By Rodney Dial
September 29, 2007
Dear Mr. Harringtion regarding your letter, The rotting corpse
I can understand why consolidation is a sensitive subject for
you. Your committee spent a significant amount of time to put
the issue before the voters. Having said that, the only falsehood
in the discussion concerning this topic is that of supporters
such as you, who claim that consolidation would/will not increase
I will agree with you that consolidation most likely would not
have caused a 2-mill property tax increase (AS PROJECTED in the
document YOU helped create), actually it would have been closer
to a 4-MILL INCREASE. For the record I did not project this
increase it was your own BOROUGH EMPLOYEES who prior to the vote
emailed our anti-consolidation group the IN-HOUSE estimates which
went as high as 6-MILLS. Perhaps you should ask them?
Your assertion that we could have somehow consolidated governments
and hundreds of employees without raising taxes is ridiculous
at best. The City can t figure out how to direct tourists down
the sidewalk without spending 100k for a survey, but we can consolidate
Here are just a few of the costs that you have apparently forgotten,
which were mentioned by borough staff and/or in the consolidation
The merging of hundreds of City and Borough employees. Pay and
benefits were to be adjusted to the higher of the two pay ranges
(Mentioned in your document sounds like a cost to me).
Retirement contributions - Large disparity in the amount paid
by both governments would result in additional contributions
required for former borough employees brought into the higher
pay and benefit package. The local government contribution into
the State PERS system would increase. As we accurately pointed
out prior to the vote, the consolidation commission never requested
an estimate from the State Retirement and Benefits section regarding
this increase. The best guess estimate (since you never made
an official request) was in the several hundred thousand dollar
range (annually and increasing for ever).
Administrative - Relocation of employees, moving / cleaning costs,
software purchasing (incompatible operating systems), web page
redesign, signage, form redesign and purchasing, contracts awarded
for various tasks such as standardizing operating procedures,
and on, and on .
I suppose that we would never hear of any unforeseen expenses,
or that some hazardous material was discovered in a building
employees were moving into, or out of. No one would have asked
for bonds to build or renovate, to purchase furniture, or to
complete some survey. No additional costs what so ever, right?
Both governments have vast hoards of cash; you would just use
To close this letter I will just remind you of the following:
1. The consolidation commissions projected 3-year budget showed
large increases in almost every department. I realize that most
of this increase was do to the projected PERS increases. However,
you did not factor in PERS increases due to consolidation (mentioned
above) and did not ask the State Department of Administration
for an estimate. Don t ask don t tell?
2. The consolidation commission never once presented a COST
ESTIMATE to the public for consideration. You actually advocated
for such a document, but were shot down by the other consolidation
members (why?). At the very least you knew for a fact that there
would be administrative and pay adjustment costs.
3. The consolidation document removed the current tax cap, increased
the maximum mill rate allowed by Alaska Statue in the borough
to 30 mills, and removed the public right to vote on new taxes
or fee increases.
4. It doesn t matter what you feel the Projected 2-Mill increase
(mentioned in the consolidation document and your letter) was
to be used for. There was NO earmark for the projected increase.
No guarantee in the consolidation document that any mill rate
increase (over what we had) could only be used for X.
5. The consolidation commission attempted to gloss-over some
fee increases due to consolidation such as the KPU payment in
lieu of taxes (PILT) increase. A de facto tax increase passed
on through higher utility bills to everyone.
6. To be approved by the Local Boundary Commission (LBC), the
consolidation document had To be in the Best interest of the
State . It said nothing about being in the best interest of
Ketchikan. As mention by regulation the Best Interest Test
included the transfer of services from the State to the Local
level. This has cost Juneau millions per year since they consolidated.
Once again no worst case scenario or advisement of this risk
was communicated to the public by the consolidation commission.
The bottom-line Mr. Harringtion . If consolidation would not
have raised taxes as you claim, the consolidation commission
(at the urging of the City) would have had no reason to INTENTIONALLY
remove from the consolidation document the tax cap, and the public
right to vote on new taxes and fee increases.
Actions speak louder than words. The actions of the consolidation
commission (yes, at the urging of the City) were to not trust
the public and give them the power to vote on tax increases in
a Post-Consolidated Ketchikan. All the risk on the people, right?
If you don t trust the people, they won t trust you, and that
is why consolidation failed.
PS: If you wonder why this topic came up again it s because
consolidation was a question posed to candidates at a recent
forum. Almost ALL said that the prior consolidation document
was flawed (what about that Mr. Harrington?)
We also have an applicant for Borough Manager (Dan Bockhorst)
who was/is employed by the LBC and instrumental in the last consolidation
attempt. A State employee who worked to consolidate our community
as Borough Manager?
Coincidence?... I wonder if the Chamber of Commerce would like
to comment on this?
About: "Someone who probably
won't be allowed to buy a new car anytime soon."
Received September 26, 2007
- Published September 29, 2007
rotting corpse of consolidation By John Harrington
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