Things are not “fine” as some would have you believe
By Rodney Dial
September 23, 2016
On 9/14 I participated in the local Chamber of Commerce candidate forum. My impression was that the other candidates are nice decent people. I was quite amazed however, that most thought everything was “fine” in Ketchikan. I felt as if I was the only candidate who did their homework and took the time to look at the borough budget. Perhaps if they did, they may have had more concerns about where we are going as a community.
Things are not “fine” as some would have you believe. The Borough budget is currently operating on reserves. This year the budget is ¾ of a million dollars in deficit mode. The assembly considered a tax increase this year and ultimately decided to spend down reserves instead. This means that a tax increase is all but certain if we sit idly by. Current issues driving the budget include health care costs that are rising faster than inflation (up 12% last year alone) reduced community revenue sharing from the state, the uncertainty of continued rural school funding, future need for over 12 million in school construction costs and our debt payments. Just the annual amount needed to service our debt is larger than the entire yearly borough take from sales tax revenue ($5.1 million per year).
One of the duties I excelled at over the years was budgetary analysis and planning. To prepare for the position of borough assembly I spent a significant amount of time going through the budgets of borough departments and the 20+ funds that the borough has over $52 million in. In one department I was able to identify a way to save about $50 thousand per year with a scheduling change similar to one we utilized when I was a Commander with the Troopers. My point is that we have budget issues in the Borough and there are ways we can address those shortfalls without raising taxes.
Alaskans will soon lose over $1000 each to support state government (PFD reductions). As I pointed out in my previous letters, this is only the starting point for the new State taxes to come. Our State elected officials have shown an inability to make any real cuts (most stated cuts are simply deferrals) and with the state budget continuing to rise in other areas; there is no way to balance the state budget without massive taxes for years to come.
My question to those who want to raise taxes locally; how much higher do you think our local taxes can go without causing massive problems for our community?
At the Chamber function I suggested to the other candidates and current government officials the need for them to practice management “by walking around”. If they did, they would meet countless citizens that are struggling to make ends meet now. They can’t afford tax increase after tax increase… fee increase after fee increase… or for the general cost of living here to get any more expensive. Our young adults and elders are on fixed budgets and have no more to give government. Why am I the only candidate that seems to care about this?
Taxes, rent, food, utilities and services in Ketchikan are all rising faster than inflation. If your pay is not increasing at the same rate, your standard of living is falling. Bottom line friends…. we can hold the line on local government spending or Ketchikan will get significantly more expensive.
I’m running my campaign with my own money and am not supported by any group. If I get elected it will be only because of you. I need those who agree with me to vote, and talk to your friends and family and ask that they vote. The Borough Election is on October 4th. Thank you for your consideration.
Received September 21, 2016 - Published September 23, 2016
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