Sales tax, bond propositions approved for Juneau municipal election ballot

The Juneau Assembly is sending voters two capital project funding packages at the October 2nd municipal election.

Assembly members last night (Monday) approved the measures without making any changes.

The first is a five year extension of the city’s temporary 1-percent sales tax — known as the project tax — which Juneau voters have approved for nearly 30 years. The second is a $25 million bond proposition to pay for additional projects beyond what would be covered by sales tax alone.

Though they’ll appear on the ballot as separate propositions, the measures are designed to be considered as one. That’s because $10 million from the sales tax extension would be used to pay down debt on the bonds, avoiding the need to raise property taxes.

Public comment was decidedly in favor of the ballot measures. North Douglas resident SueAnn Randall highlighted her support for the Juneau Arts and Culture Center, which would get about a million dollars from the sales tax extension for planning and design of a new performing arts space.

“The JACC expansion proposal offers an incredible opportunity for providing the Capital City of Alaska with a performing arts venue worthy of the talent that comes to our town, as well as supporting the infrastructure of the local and creative economy,” Randall said.

Fritz Cove resident Tom Williams was the only person to speak against either measure. He blasted the bond proposition, saying the Assembly was not living within the city’s means. But he had a more measured response to the sales tax proposal, objecting only to the inclusion of money for the Sealaska Heritage Institute’s Walter Soboleff Center.

“The project may be a great project, but for the city to designate the sales tax, public money, towards a private entity, I think is not a good way to go,” Williams said.

He pointed to a recent survey of about a third of Juneau Chamber of Commerce members, where 54 percent of those who answered thought there hadn’t been enough public input.

In his public testimony, Sealaska Heritage Chief of Operations Lee Kadinger talked about the benefits of the project, including preservation of local Native culture and about 30 permanent jobs. Kadinger also dismissed the chamber survey.

“We believe it does not represent the majority view of its membership as indicated by its own report,” Kadinger said. “We would encourage the Assembly to continue its deliberative process to bring the tax initiative to a vote before Juneau residents in October.”

And that’s exactly what happened. Assemblyman Randy Wanamaker was the only member to vote against sending the measures to voters. He also made a failed bid to send the funding packages back to the Finance Committee for further review.

Recent headlines

  • Acting Alaska U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder speaks at a press conference in Anchorage on March 23, 2017.

    Veteran prosecutor nominated to be the US attorney in Alaska

    Trump nominated Bryan Schroder for the post, the acting head of the Alaska district since Karen Loeffler and 45 other U.S. attorneys appointed by former President Barack Obama were asked to resign after Trump's election.
  • The Alaska Capitol Building in Juneau on June 6, 2017. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

    Alaska lawmakers to reconvene on capital budget next week

    A Senate spokesman says the third special session is likely to start Thursday, July 27, in Juneau, and it's expected to last one or two days. The House and Senate indicated an agreement had been reached.
  • A robotic camera provides for wildlife tracking across a meadow near the Mendenhall Glacier Visitors Center for Wild Alaska Live. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO)

    Behind the scenes of Wild Alaska Live

    The BBC and PBS are teaming up on a special series of live, prime-time nature programs showcasing Alaska’s wildlife to tens of millions people around the world. Cutting edge technology and a lot of luck goes into the high stakes production.
  • Greens Creek Mine

    Juneau Assembly mining task force to add members

    The three-member Juneau Assembly mining task force is seeking to add two planning commissioners and two members of the public. The group is studying a proposal to streamline the city's mining review process.