By Beth Wythe
Mr. (Chris) Story provides a compelling story by taking information out-of-context (Homer Tribune, Jan. 29). Certainly, not collecting sales tax on food year-round has a substantial financial impact on the ability of the City to fulfill the many obligations approved by the voters (i.e., paying for the library, community schools, maintaining roadways in the winter, etc.). And, certainly there are legal issues the City faces periodically that require decisions to be made to limit potentially larger liabilities the financial repercussions of which would certainly become the responsibility of the taxpayers. However, the council is an elected body charged with making the best decisions they can with the information available.
I appreciate Chris’s concern for the collection of sales tax on food, and that is why I have been the staunchest supporter of not putting the tax back in place without a vote. It is important to note that changes at the Borough level have placed the ability to levy this particular tax squarely in the control of the council. The Homer City Council is the only first-class city in the Borough that elected to honor the vote of the people and eliminate city sales tax for non-prepared foods on a seasonal basis; (a decision they are often chided for by representatives from other communities that did not make the same choice).
The Council does not require a vote to reinstate the tax, but it would be preferable from my perspective.
It is unfortunate that Mr. Story elects to take cheap shots at the council, yet is not offering any solutions to the financial dilemmas the council is required to face on a regular basis. His solutions ask the council to ignore its responsibility to minimize the city’s liability; or, to not bother with providing educational opportunities for citizens to develop a broader understanding of the legal processes of local government.
No matter what actions the council takes, the cost of operating the city will continue to increase, just as the cost of living increases. Action needs to be taken to increase our economic basis, or additional revenues will need to be raised through taxes.
Rest assured that, while we may not be taking action in the way Mr. Story sees fit, the council is working to improve the financial situation of the city without changing our taxes. Maybe Mr. Story would like to be among those enrolling in the citizens’ academy to develop a more accurate understanding of how our local government works.
Beth Wythe is the City of Homer’s current mayor.
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