The borough assembly voted 6-1 against an amendment to the borough code that would decouple the borough severance tax rate from the mill rate. Several commercial fishermen, representatives of the fishing industry, and assembly members themselves spoke out against the amendment at last night’s meeting, arguing that it would pit borough property owners against fishers when it comes to budget planning.
“I strongly feel that this is going to divide the community between us fisher-folks and property owners, people who haven’t invested in fisheries and are primarily property owners,” said Patrick O’Donnell, a Kodiak commercial fisherman and property owner. I think you’re setting the stage for us to do battle in the future as to whether property tax pays for our deficit within the borough or we jack up the severance rate and make the fishermen pay for it.”
An amendment to the ordinance, which would have provided a property tax credit to fishermen who also own property also failed to pass. “I’m going to vote against the amendment and the original,” Assemblyman Scott Smiley said during assembly discussion. “Taxes are a pain, and it’s important to share that kind of pain across the board. By dividing out fishermen, giving them a tax that is independent of the property tax, they’re no longer part of that group receiving the pain.”
While the ordinance appeared to be intended to make sure fishermen who don’t reside in Kodiak are paying their fair share, critics of the measure pointed out that the side-effects of such a policy could target more vulnerable groups, as well as divide the community.