By McKibben Jackinsky
With 29 of 30 precincts reporting on Tuesday’s Municipal Election, Kenai Peninsula voters gave a loud “yes” on an increase that more than doubles the existing property tax exemption and “yes” to a school bond that will bring a new turf field to Homer High School and roof repairs to schools throughout the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.
When it came to repealing the existing two-term limits for borough assembly members, however, voters gave a loud “no.”
The results were what Borugh Mayor Mike Navarre expected, but the specific impacts of the tax exemption increase are yet to be known.
“Really, that will manifest itself in next year’s budget,” said Navarre. “When we put the budget together next year we’ll look at where we are and make recommendations to the assembly.”
Proposition 1, increasing the existing $20,000 property tax exemption to $50,000 passed borough-wide with 4,552, or 63.75 percent, votes; 2,588 voters, or 36.25 percent, opposed the increase. Results in Homer mirrored those of the borough, with the proposition receiving 354, or 61.46 percent, “yes” votes and 222, or 38.54 percent, “no” votes in Homer No. 1 and 292, or 152 percent, “yes” votes and 152, of 34.23 percent, “no” votes in Homer 2.
A fiscal note provided by the borough indicated the increase would result in a revenue loss of $1.3 million, with the impact to each of the borough’s 13 service areas ranging from $90 to $350,737. On the southern peninsula it would mean:
•Anchor Point Fire and Emergency Medical Service Area: loss of $35,502;
•Kachemak Emergency Service Area: loss of $78,659;
•Seldovia Recreational Service Area: loss of $1,628;
•South Kenai Peninsula Hospital Service Area: loss of $174,268.
Bill Smith, who represents Homer on the borough assembly, said he wasn’t surprised by the vote.
“When people saw it was a property tax exemption, they said ‘let’s take it,’” said Smith, adding, “The collateral damage to service areas will be the big one. Most service areas will have to look at a mill rate increase. We’re talking about fire departments, emergency service areas and hospitals. They’ll have some significant challenges.”
James Price of Nikiski, leader in the move to put the exemption before voters, said the fiscal note provided by the borough did not paint a clear picture.
“The impacts were exaggerated. The total facts were not given by the borough and it gave the impression that the initiative had more of an impact than it does,” said Price.
“Normal inflation in assessments are greater in most cases in one year than the impacts have been.”
Although he was happy with the outcome, Price said he “actually hoped that we would have got even more (votes) than we received.”
Proposition 2, asking voters if the borough shall borrow up to $22,987,000 through the issuance of general obligation bonds, received 3,939, or 56.75 percent, “yes” votes and 3,022, or 43.25 percent, “no” votes.
Homer-area voters gave even more support, with 375, or 70.09 percent, voting “yes” and 160, or 29.91 percent, voting “no” in Homer 1. In Homer 2, there were 273, or 65.38 percent, “yes” votes and 143, or 34.62 percent, “no” votes.
The bond will pay for capital improvements projects to be done over a three-year period and will include numerous roof replacements and a new Homer High School turf field. All the projects have been approved for the state’s 70 percent reimbursement program.
“We have an obligation to maintain all our facilities and having the state participate at a 70 percent reimbursement rate is just common sense,” said Smith.
High School Principal Doug Waclawski was excited to see the public’s support of the bond.
“I’ve heard nobody who was upset with it or campaigned against it, so I was reasonably hopeful and am happy it passed,” said Waclawski.
Josh Fraley, the school’s head football coach, said the field will “save a lot of money, time and is going to be a lot safer. Not just for football, but for the high school soccer team, cross country, everybody in the community.”
Proposition 3 was divided into two parts. A “yes” vote on the first part would have repealed the current two-term limit for borough assembly members, while a “yes” vote on the second part would have extended the current two-term limit to three terms.
Voters said “no” to both parts.
Boroughwide, Part A received 4,967, or 71.40 percent, “no” votes and 1,990, or 28.60 percent, “yes” votes. In similar fashion, Part B received 4,913, or 71.35 percent, “no” votes and 1,973, or 28.65 percent, “yes” votes.
In Homer 1, Part A received 362, or 67.16 percent, “no” votes and 177, or 32.84 percent, “yes” votes. Part B received 348, or 64.93 percent, “no” votes and 188, or 35.07 percent, “yes” votes.
In Homer 2, Part A received 303, or 72.49 percent, “no” votes and 115, or 27.51 percent, “yes” votes. Part B received 289, or 70.49 percent, “no” votes and 121, or 29.51 percent, “yes” votes.
It isn’t the first time borough voters have been asked to weigh-in on term limits. A limit of two consecutive terms was adopted by voters in 1993, but repealed by the assembly six years later. A voter initiative put the two-consecutive-term limit back on the ballot in 2007 and voters approved it by 53.72 percent of the vote.
Assembly member Hal Smalley of Kenai was behind this third appearance.
“There are those folks in the borough, especially in my voting district, that feel that elections are the true term limit,” Smalley told the Homer News.
Mako Haggerty, who represents the southern Kenai Peninsula on the assembly, favors eliminating term limits “because I think it’s the voters’ responsibility to pay attention to what’s happening. ... I understand why people want term limits, but it’s a sense of powerlessness on the part of the voter.”
However, Haggerty said he thought voters were “tired of politics as usual and their impression is that once someone gets elected and is in office, you just can’t seem to get rid of them.”
Incumbent Sunni Hilts was the only candidate for School Board, District 9, a broad-reaching area stretching from Anchor Point to the head of Kachemak Bay to the south side of the bay and Cook Inlet. It encompasses Chapman School in Anchor Point, Kachemak Selo School, McNeil Canyon Elementary School, Nanwalek School, Port Graham School, Razdolna School, Susan B. English School in Seldovia and Voznesenka School.
Hilts received 485, of 95.47 percent, of the vote.
For the past year, she has served as president elect of the Association of Alaska School Boards and will become president of the association the first week of November.
In service area board elections for the southern peninsula, with only one candidate for each seat, the following results were reported:
•Anchor Point Fire and Emergency Service Area, Seat B: Robert W. Craig, 215 or 94.71 percent of the vote;
•Kachemak Emergency Service Area Board, Seat B: Ralph E. Crane, 295 or 98.66 percent of the vote;
•Kachemak Emergency Service Area Board, Seat C: Mike Petersen, 293 or 99.32 percent of the vote;
•Kachemak Emergency Service Area Board, Seat D: Joseph E. “Jeff” Middleton, 367 or 98.66 percent of the vote;
•Kachemak Emergency Service Area Board, Seat E: Matthew Schneyer, 288 or 98.97 percent of the vote;
•Seldovia Recreational Service Area Board, Seat A: Mark D. Janes, 57 or 98.28 percent of the vote;
•Seldovia Recreational Service Area Board, Seat D: Vivian M. Rojas, 57 or 96.61 percent of the vote;
•South Kenai Peninsula Hospital Service Area Board, Seat C: Barbara McBride, 1,511 or 98.63 percent of the vote;
•South Kenai Peninsula Hospital Service Area Board, Seat G: Clyde T. Boyer Jr., 1,283 or 98.69 percent;
•South Kenai Peninsula Hospital Service Area Board, Seat H: Doris I. Cabana, 1,343 or 97.96 percent of the vote; and
•South Kenai Peninsula Hospital Service Area Board, Seat I: Ralph E. Broches, 1,469 or 98.72 percent of the vote.
With 41,316 registered voters in the borough, 9,320, or 22.56 percent, took the time to cast their votes.
“That’s pathetic,” said Haggerty. “Other countries around the world shame us in that department. People will show up in large numbers to vote. We don’t seem to participate.”
A final ballot count will be completed by the canvass board on Tuesday. At the borough assembly’s regular meeting that evening, the results will be certified with a vote on Resolution 2013-067.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at email@example.com.