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

Grocery tax, harbor initiatives not in best interest of residents
When voters go to the polls for the Oct. 1 Kenai Peninsula Borough municipal election, they will be faced with choosing from candidates for borough mayor, assembly, city council, school board and local service area boards. Also on the ballot, and deserving of at least equal consideration, will be four ballot propositions for all voters, and a fifth for voters in the Anchor Point area.

Some questions are straightforward. Others have been the subject of much discussion and even controversy. Last week, we took up the first three propositions. Here's our take on propositions 4 and 5.

Proposition No. 4 -- Sales Tax Initiative

The borough presently taxes non-prepared food items -- most groceries -- at a rate of 2 percent and dedicates 100 percent of the revenue to education. This proposition, which seeks to repeal that tax, came about as a result of a citizens' petition drive based on the reasoning that the levy is most taxing to those who can least afford it -- low-income families, the elderly and the unemployed.

Supporters of this proposition lean heavily on the fairness issue and claim that the borough should find more equitable means of generating revenue.

Opponents, mostly city government officials, cite the devastating effect the passage of this proposition would have on services. They also claim that repeal of the grocery tax would give tourists a mostly free ride all summer, allowing them to enjoy all the benefits of our area without helping to offset their maintenance expenses.

We admire and applaud the grass-roots effort that got this question on the ballot. And we agree that the present tax structure unfairly targets low-income people, which may explain why the tax does not exist in most other states. But other states also do not give their residents nearly $2,000 every October.

It is our hope that a better, more equitable system of taxation might someday be devised here. Until then, with the sorry fiscal state of public education prominent in our thinking, we recommend a no vote on Proposition 4.

Proposition 5 -- Proposed Anchor Point Port and Harbor Service Area

This proposition, to be voted on only by people who reside in the Anchor Point Fire Service Area, also came about by citizen petition. It seeks to establish a service area board to facilitate a feasibility study on a harbor for Anchor Point.

Supporters tout the potential of a future harbor to bring new commerce and economic growth to the area. They also cite the mounting safety issue involved with increased tractor launches from the beach.

Opponents cite an already completed Army Corps of Engineers study that outlines environmental and economic concerns, chief among them the huge cost of the project with no guarantee that it will be self-funding.

There are far too many unanswered questions here. And the ones that have been answered make this project look like a very deep and insatiable money pit.

We recommend a no vote on Proposition 5.

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