The Kodiak City Council is considering doubling its property tax to fund repairs and improvements to the City of Kodiak’s infrastructure. While many on the council agree having enough money to sustain the systems that help the city operate is important, some worry that it’s not the right time for the city to raise its mill rate.
A good way to think about infrastructure is to picture all the pipes that run beneath Kodiak streets. Some of which are over 50 years old. Keeping these pipes working, among other things, is at the heart of the Kodiak City Council’s potential decision to raise property taxes says Pat Branson, Kodiak’s Mayor.
“People want to come home, be able to flush their toilet, drink our great water that we have here. That’s what it boils down to.”
In the Kodiak Archipelago, a big part of the city’s role is to provide an infrastructure that many in the region rely on.
“We have ports and harbors. We have police. We have fire [service]. We have parks. So, we have safety measures that we have to keep up.”
The city is years behind on repairs and updates to its infrastructure. Branson says you just have to drive down some of Kodiak’s streets to see this.
Even though there is a need, Branson expects some pushback from residents if the city raises the mill rate from two mills to four. The last time the city raised its property tax was in 1985, and the proposed increase is estimated to generate about one million more dollars for the city annually.
Branson says she understands why people don’t want their taxes to go up. It’s expensive to live in Alaska, but, she also thinks Alaskans have enjoyed living without a lot of taxes.
“Alaska has been blessed with not having any taxes for a very long time. It’s almost been a welfare state because we get the PFD on top of it. I mean, you go outside and talk about that and people are like, “what?” I come from the Chicago area and the property taxes that my family pays there would scare people here.”
At a recent city council budget meeting, Councilman John Whiddon stood up against the increase. His main reason was the Kodiak Island Borough’s pursuit of consolidating its government with the City of Kodiak’s. He says the borough’s trying to “systematically dismantle the city.”
He believes Kodiak needs to maintain its infrastructure, but Whiddon thinks the increase would give weight to the argument for consolidation, which worries him.
“Now, we potentially raise a million dollars with a mill rate increase, but it’s going to put us right on the bullseye for folks that want to consolidate.”
Currently, the borough is only researching consolidation, which it was directed to do by voters over a year ago.
The city council recently announced it would hold a public forum on March 22nd so the public can give input on the possible mill rate increase. After that, the council will vote whether to direct the city manager to increase property taxes in the upcoming year.