Juneau Assembly committee OKs bond, sales tax packages

The Juneau Assembly Finance Committee has signed off on a pair of capital improvement funding packages likely to be on this fall’s municipal election ballot.

The full Assembly still needs to vote on the measures. But for now it appears Juneau residents will be asked to approve an extension of the city’s temporary 1-percent sales tax and a $24.9-million bond proposition.

KTOO’s Casey Kelly has more.

Finance Committee Chair Karen Crane says the bond measure is meant to pay for items not covered by the sales tax extension, which will bring in an estimated $44.8-million over five years.

“The problem was there was $70-million worth of requests,” Crane says. “And a lot of really worthy projects, and needs for maintenance and other things. And so this just allowed us to get a little further.”

The Finance Committee last night (Monday) voted 6-3 in favor of separate financing packages, with opposition coming from Assembly members Randy Wanamaker, Ruth Danner and Mary Becker.

Wanamaker says he believes some of the projects in the bond proposition should be paid for with sales tax revenue and vice versa.

“The bond proposition is going to increase property taxes,” Wanamaker says. “And if we’re going to ask people to consider raising their property taxes, it should be for things that people want to have, but aren’t necessary for the people to have.”

Under the current proposal, $10-million dollars from the sales tax extension is earmarked to pay down debt on the bonds, deferring a property tax hike for at least five years.

Sealaska Heritage Institute's Walter Soboleff Center is included in the Juneau Assembly's latest proposal to fund projects with 1% sales tax money. (Rendering courtesy MRV Architects)

If the sales tax passes and the bond measure fails, the $10-million would be used to upgrade Centennial Hall and Aurora Harbor. Right now those items are included in the bond proposition, along with renovation of Capital Transit’s bus barn and funding for a new Learning Center at Eaglecrest Ski Area, among other projects.

The sales tax extension would pay for nearly $34.5-million dollars in projects, ranging from a children’s mental health facility at Bartlett Regional Hospital to parks and trails borough-wide. The measure also includes $3-million dollars for Sealaska Heritage Institute’s Walter Soboleff Center, to be built across the street from Sealaska Plaza downtown.

The measures now go to the full Assembly, which will take public comment before voting on whether to approve them for the October 2nd municipal election ballot.

CBJ Capital Project Sales Tax & Bond Proposal [PDF]

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