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.

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