PALMER — The first issue taken up by the Mat-Su Borough Assembly on Tuesday is among the hottest it will see all year, and maybe ever.
The introduction of Ordinance 19-092 and 19-093 to adopt a 2-percent sales tax within the entire Matanuska-Susitna Borough was met with heavy backlash from members of the public. The public hearing on the sales tax ordinances will be continued to the August 20 meeting, but there was no shortage of animated commentary on Tuesday. The regularly scheduled Assembly meeting lasted nearly four hours, two of which were just members of the public voicing their concerns over another tax. The majority of those that spoke to the assembly were not pleased.
“I know we are still waiting for what type of vetoes will come down the lines and I think an audience member said most succinctly and I agree that if we don’t need the money right now, we shouldn’t be taking it from the people,” said Assembly member Ted Leonard.
The sales tax ordinances are sponsored by Assembly member Jim Sykes. However, Sykes had questions as to the fixed dollar amount of the school bond debt reimbursement. The $9.2 million in monies removed by the Assembly during their budget process had been previously earmarked for school maintenance. If the total amount for school bond debt reimbursement would be reinstated, Sykes was confused as to where the money would go. Borough Manager John Moosey said that the budget had been crafted in anticipation for $9.2 million in losses. Another $9.2 million still remains in that fund, and will only be put into action of the school bond debt reimbursement is reallocated. If more than $9.2 million is allocated, those monies would go back to the taxpayers.
“From anything I’m hearing is that most likely (the governor) will veto out again that $9.2 million, so I think most likely we’re going to be where we are no matter what. If we get more, we have a plan in place to make a smart decision on the rebate if it occurs,” said Moosey
Assembly member Jesse Sumner noted that with a sales tax on the agenda reducing the property tax, it would not be in good faith to the voters to over collect tax if the Borough is unwilling to rebate that collection. The veto of the school bond debt reimbursement amounts to about one mill to the taxpayers.
“I think if we don’t in good faith rebate the Borough residents, they should have no faith in us that a sales tax will reduce their property tax,” said Sumner.
Assembly member Tam Boeve said that in her district, many are speculating that additional cuts would be coming down the line next year which will cause a major hit on property taxes. Boeve noted that it may be wise to institute the sales tax to offset possible future cuts. Assembly member Dan Mayfield, who participated telephonically, also said that the Assembly must remember that the $9.2 million meant to repair schools has still not been spent and the schools that the borough owns still need repairs.
“Since those schools remain unrepaired at this time, I would be very hesitant to approve this,” said Mayfield.
While much speculation is still to be had and six possible amendments remain on the table, Mat-Su Valley taxpayers will have to wait until at least August 20 to get an answer on if they will have any new taxes in the coming year.