By Mike McBride
City and Borough elections are here, with absentee voting already started. There are many important seats to be filled and issues decided. Now is the time for everyone to become informed, not when standing in the polling booth on Oct. 1.
Good government requires voters making well informed decisions. The Borough election pamphlet is a good place to start as it provides all the basic information. However it does not tell the whole story and additional research is required. There are public forums where candidates and issues are discussed. You can attend in person, or on talk radio. Ask hard questions before making your decision. Probing questions are acceptable and necessary in the decision making process. Voting is your civic duty and should never be taken lightly.
Voters in Nikiski, Soldotna, Kasilof, Clam Gulch, Happy Valley, Ninilchik, and Nikolaevsk will choose a new assembly member. You have a choice between the incumbent assembly members running for re-election and their more conservative challengers
Unlike the borough assembly candidates which are voted on by district, borough ballot propositions are voted on by all voters. These are important decisions that will affect you for a long time.
Ballot proposition one, if approved by voters will increase your borough property tax exemption from the current $20,000 to $50,000. This saves the average homeowner several hundred dollars a year on their borough property taxes. The voters’ pamphlet claims local service areas lose revenues, but this is not the full picture.
Based on information provided by the borough, but not included in the voters’ pamphlet, a less than two tenths of a mil increase will offset the revenue loss assuming there is no growth in the borough economy. However, there has been and likely will continue to be growth that will more than offset lost revenue. Why did the borough withhold this important information? The answer is simple: because half-truths support their position.
Another example of the borough using half-truths in the voter information pamphlet is ballot proposition two. In the original ballot language the borough implies our legislature will repay 70 percent of school bonds. At the insistence of former State Legislator Kelly Wolf and a few more conservative assembly members additional language was added to clarify the state’s actual participation. If approved by voters, ballot proposition two commits taxpayers to accept ultimate responsibility for repayment of this $23 million school bond. This is in addition to the $52 million we currently owe according to the Borough 2012 CAFR. The borough implies the state legislature is going to pay 70 percentage of the bond payments each year.
What is not widely known is that the state legislature is not required to pay this bond debt. Each legislature makes bond payment decisions based on available revenues for that specific year. While the legislature has funded most bond payments in the past, continued decline in oil production makes it highly unlikely this will continue for much longer.
Those of us who support a top-notch education for our kids have no doubt these schools need repairs. However, school roofs can last longer with better maintenance and better budgeting. The borough’s ongoing failure to plan and properly budget does not constitute a crisis compelling enough for me to authorize a $23 million loan. High government borrowing is not working well anywhere in America and our borough is no exception.
Finally, ballot proposition 3A and 3B is a two-part question about assembly term limits. Yes, the Assembly has brought it back again, hoping we have changed our minds. They want to argue the merits of term limits and downplay the fact that three times voters have told them we want a two-term limit on the assembly. For some reason, they just don’t get it. The solution to their ignorance/arrogance is simple. To keep a two-term limit on the borough assembly members you must vote no and no … just like scolding a misbehaving child and a very good argument for keeping the current two-term limit.
Do your own research, talk to your family, friends and neighbors and then vote. Your vote does count, so make it an informed one. See you at the polls on Oct. 1.
Mike McBride is a board member for the Alliance of Concerned Taxpayers based in North Kenai.
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