Story last updated at 2:27 p.m. Thursday, September 26, 2002

Race pits Martin against Schade

BoroughAssembly Districts 8, 9

Morris News Service-Alaska
Two southern Kenai Peninsula borough assembly seats are up for grabs in Tuesday's municipal election. In Homer's District 8, incumbent Chris Moss is running unopposed.

Incumbent Milli Martin, who represents District 9, the Diamond Ridge-Seldovia area, is being challenged by Faith Schade.

Candidates, listed alphabetically by district, were asked to respond to four questions about issues facing the Kenai Peninsula Borough, including propositions that will appear on Tuesday's ballot. Their answers follow.

District 8

Chris Moss

Age: 49

Occupation: Commercial fishing/boarding kennel owner, employee of Jay-Brant, general contractor

Family: Wife, Patricia, daughter, Casey, 19

Education: B.S., biology

Previous elected offices: borough assembly

Expected cost of your campaign: $400

What is the single greatest issue facing the borough today and how would you address it?

Continued diversification of the peninsula economy. Our economy is based on three industries -- fishing, oil and tourism. We will continue to have a steady growth rate by not depending on any one industry. We do need all three in order to weather fluctuations of any one industry. The borough's role should be to support those industries as much as possible.

What is your view of the borough mill rate? Should it be lowered again or should the borough continue to collect the revenue at the current rate? If the mill rate should remain where it is, what should the borough be doing with the revenue?

The mill rate should be reduced as needed to keep the fund balance from growing any larger. We have developed a policy that should keep that from happening. We need to look into the future to see what the needs of the borough are and try to keep the tax rate stable. Fluctuations in the price of oil have the greatest impact on property values and tax revenues. We need to keep that in mind when examining the mill rate. Any further reductions in the mill rate should be small until we see the results of previous changes.

What should the borough do to encourage economic development?

I think we are doing the right thing to encourage growth. We support the tourism industry through the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council; the oil industry through our support of the gas pipeline; the fishing industry through the salmon-branding program. These programs support industry, but we continue to need more land-use planning to keep the quality of life on the peninsula good. After all, that is why most of us are here, and it is an incentive for other industries to come here as well.

Where do you stand on each of the five ballot propositions and, briefly, why?


* Prop. 1: School board representation

I support Plan B, the nine-member board by district. There is a perception that the representation of the school board is not equitable, and this option will do the most to change that perception.


* Prop. 2: General obligation bond for solid waste disposal facilities

This proposition should be passed. We are going to have to pay for solid waste expansion. By bonding, we will be able to plan for consistent property tax rates. That becomes more difficult if we have to fund the expansion on a budget-year basis. By bonding, everyone knows how much we will be spending over the next 10 years for solid waste site development.


* Prop. 3: General obligation bond for Seward Middle School

I am in favor of building a new Seward Middle School. If we don't build the school, we will have to spend almost as much to repair an aging school without getting the benefit of an increased lifespan of a new facility. Those are the only options for the middle school in Seward, and we have to do one or the other.


* Prop. 4: Nonprepared foods sales tax initiative

I am opposed to the exemption of food from sales tax. The low mill rate is a result of funding local government through sales tax. Eliminating food as a source of tax revenue will force people who live on the peninsula to pay more through property taxes. Most of the revenues generated by sales tax occur during the summer. I think that it is appropriate that visitors that impact us both positively and negatively help fund government.

District 9

Milli Martin

Age: 65

Occupation: Retired/homemaker

Family: Sons David, 34, a fisherman, and Rick, 33, a dentist

Education: A.A. general studies

Previous elected offices: borough assembly, school board

Expected cost of your campaign: $700-$800

What is the single greatest issue facing the borough today, and how would you address it?

I believe the single greatest issue facing the borough today is the same one facing the state -- the need for a state fiscal plan.

Recently, the state bond rating dropped because of lack of confidence in Alaska's state finances. The ramifications to the borough are enormous.

True, we are financially very healthy and sound. But I believe the impacts will affect the school district and our cities. It is critical for us to work closely with the new legislature to ensure some fiscal plan is developed, and in the process protect the interests of the borough.

Key in that is the impact to the borough and the cities if a state sales tax is implemented. The declining revenue sharing has already greatly impacted our cities. Loss of sales tax would only exacerbate and increase property taxes.

The loss of state services, such as adequate road maintenance, are already a reality that could have serious consequences this winter.

What is your view of the borough mill rate? Should it be lowered again, or should the borough continue to collect the revenue at the current rate? If the mill rate should remain where it is, what should the borough be doing with the revenue?

I take great pride in being a part of the process that was able to lower the borough mill levy a full mill over the past two years. I think any tax relief we can offer property owners is appropriate.

I do not believe we should lower that levy any further. The fund balance is declining slowly. The assembly implemented a minimum-maximum balance, and that minimum must be retained.

The state taxes the oil industry at 20 mills; the borough levy then comes right off the top. In other words, we are now giving the state a full mill more than they were receiving. And we certainly are not seeing that back. I do not believe it is in our financial best interest to lower it further.

The assembly did increase the mill levy by a half mill for the road service area in order to have additional funds for badly needed road improvements. Additionally, the borough funds schools, planning, solid waste and public safety. That is where dollars need to go.

What should the borough do to encourage economic development?

Regarding encouragement of economic development, I think the borough is already on track, both in encouraging tourism and through the Community and Economic Development Department and the EDD to work with prospective industries to settle on the peninsula. Grant writing is key to this.

The recent wood products grant that will add a number of new jobs and expand considerably an existing industry in North Kenai is case in point. The borough is assisting the local fishing industry to develop a branding program to salvage this vital industry. I believe it will work, but it will take time. "Kenai Wild," a brand to be proud of.

Lastly, is the new position of oil and gas development liaison to work with this important industry.

Where do you stand on each of the five ballot propositions and, briefly, why?


* Prop. 1: School board representation

I supported placing the two options on the ballot for the school board. I feel the nine-member district option is a viable one for the Kenai Peninsula.

Our district is unique because of its diversity and size. From my own experience, having served on the school board in the 1980s, I know how important it is to have a local representative on the school board who can speak knowledgeably to local issues.

It is a formidable job to campaign on the entire peninsula. In my view, only the mayor should have to campaign boroughwide.

Districting will also encourage and enable candidates from the more outlying areas to run, and I think that is very healthy.


* Prop. 2: General obligation board for solid waste disposal facilities

I supported placing the bond issue before the voters for the solid waste. The peninsula is growing. We have to have a place for our trash.

I think the administration has done an excellent job of planning and ensuring adequate space for the coming five, 10, and 20 years. Planning for solid waste is not easy. It requires a lot of compliance hoops.

I sincerely hope the public will support this bond proposal.


* Prop. 3: General obligation bond for Seward Middle School

Common sense says this is the best route to go. The current facility no longer meets safety standards and needs to be enlarged.

Why spend almost as much to upgrade an old school, when for a little more you can have a new and far more efficient facility? I urge the voters to support this bond proposal.


* Prop. 4: Non-prepared foods sales tax initiative

This initiative gives me grave concerns, because of the potential impacts to the cities within the borough, which depend so heavily on the sales tax. It should have been carefully researched before bringing it to the public.

It would certainly impact the borough contribution to schools, and impact the ability of Homer and Soldotna, for instance, to provide basic services. Both support a large population outside the incorporated cities. The tax loss would have to be made up either on the backs of property owners or through annexation.

Property taxes to make up that loss would be considerable. I hope the voters review this one very,

very carefully.

Faith Schade

Age: 36

Occupation: Mom, housewife, rancher

Family: Husband, Phil Celtic, children: Heather, 10, Cordell, 6

Education: High school graduate, vocational school for heavy equipment operation and salesmanship

Previous elected offices: none

Expected cost of your campaign: $1,000

What is the single greatest issue facing the borough today, and how would you address it?

We have a great base economy, but we cannot rely on it to be there forever. We need to assist and enhance our current industries. We need to find ways to create new industries that will work well with our lifestyle. I am not going to supply the answer to these problems, we are as a community.

What is your view of the borough mill rate? Should it be lowered again, or should the borough continue to collect the revenue at the current rate? If the mill rate should remain where it is, what should the borough be doing with the revenue?

The borough mill rate is capped, and for a good reason. It is great that it has been dropped these past two years. I, for one, do not want to pay any more taxes than I have to.

However, the mill rate is only relevant as long as our assessments on our properties are reasonable. I cannot say as they are.

The revenue generated from the mill rate should continue to be used to educate our children, take care of our elderly and help run the borough, and in the process help create more revenue through economic development.

What should the borough do to encourage economic development?

I know that giving new businesses a tax-deferred status for an allotted amount of time may give new businesses the chance they need to bring a lasting influence to our economy. How about simply creating new opportunities through education?

One suggestion I received was to create a school that would teach people to utilize computers, video and audio equipment in the entertainment industry. Computer graphics and videography are not something exclusive to big cities and the Lower 48 states.

How about farming halibut so that we can help stock our waters so that the commercial fishermen don't have to compete with the sport fisherman? We stock our lagoons and fishing holes with salmon, why not halibut holes for the kids and kids at heart to fish in?

Where do you stand on each of the five ballot propositions and, briefly, why?


* Prop. 1: School board representation

I feel that a school board with a representative from each area on the peninsula should give our schools and the families in our communities better representation. Each area would have a specific person to work with, as well as the school board as a whole.


* Prop. 2: General obligation board for solid waste disposal facilities

I am in favor of the bond because as a community we have grown. If the peninsula doesn't act now and expand and improve the central peninsula landfill we will be doing a poor job of waste management. Trash is a fact of life, and we need to dispose of it responsibly.


* Prop. 3: General obligation bond for Seward Middle School

I am in favor of this bond. It makes sense to me to spend a little more money now and have a school that will last for 20 to 40 years longer than spend less money and still be spending to build in 10 years. If we build it now, maybe the old school could be sold and used for other purposes.


* Prop. 4: Non-prepared foods sales tax initiative

Sorry people, this one was a tough call for me. Even though I am in favor of tax break as a rule, this one will do more harm than good. As I read it, it will make all non-prepared food items tax exempt.

The money saved by the consumer at the store will also be taken from our children, because the revenue lost from the taxes will come out of our school budget.

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