SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Rotten things...
By Rodney Dial


September 29, 2007
Saturday AM

Dear Mr. Harringtion regarding your letter, The rotting corpse of consolidation.

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 taxes.

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 for free?...please.

Here are just a few of the costs that you have apparently forgotten, which were mentioned by borough staff and/or in the consolidation document:

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 that correct?

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?

Rodney Dial
Ketchikan, AK

About: "Someone who probably won't be allowed to buy a new car anytime soon."

Received September 26, 2007 - Published September 29, 2007


Related Viewpoint:

letter The rotting corpse of consolidation By John Harrington

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