The Kodiak Island Borough is one of the only places in the state that doesn’t automatically re-enroll senior citizens and disabled veterans for property tax exemption.
At least eight seniors and veterans filed late for property tax exemptions this year. The Kodiak Island Borough Assembly heard cases one at a time at its meeting Thursday. But the discussion on what defined “good cause” for tardy applications and whether the Assembly should approve the appeals was, at times, heated.
Michael Dolph was the first senior the Assembly heard from. Dolph said he and his wife took turns caring for each other due to various injuries dating back to November.
“We lost track of the drop-dead date and the format [sic] that we were supposed to fill out just because we were so focused on taking care of each other and we were swapping roles back and forth,” he said.
Assemblymen Jared Griffin and Larry LeDoux both said they would vote in favor of all the exemptions. For transparency, Griffin works at KMXT. LeDoux gave the example that seniors won’t be getting any younger and said doing hearings on a case-by-case basis are a waste of time.
“I just believe the process is unnecessary, time consuming and disrespectful,” he said. “And I believe every person meets the qualifications and to have a black and white ordinance that requires them to have to file this kind of thing and go through this kind of process is wrong.”
On the other hand, Assembly member James Turner said he would vote in line with the borough assessor, Seema Garoutte’s, recommendations, which were different for each individual.
Per borough code, mayors usually don’t have a vote in the Assembly. However, since Scott Arndt was only appointed mayor earlier in that same meeting, he retained his vote until the next day. Arndt said Assembly members need to base their votes on the rules in place rather than personal feelings.
“These are the rules that are in effect right now,” said Arndt. “We can work towards changing, but it’s our job to rule on the current laws that are on the books.”
Assembly member Joseph Delgado said he supported LeDoux and Griffin’s thoughts, but later decided to vote based on circumstance. Assembly member Scott Smiley voted in line with Turner. Assemblyman Geoffrey Smith was absent from the meeting.
Garoutte recommended against Dolph’s exemption because he and his wife were able to run other errands, like grocery shopping.
The first vote was an even split between the members in attendance and their exemption failed. That means the Dolphs will not be exempt from property taxes this year.
The Assembly voted on three more appeals. Two of those applicants provided good cause for their late paperwork, according to Borough Assembly members, who approved their exemptions. However, one was denied. But in Rebecca Dawn’s case, there was significant confusion on the wording of the motion, the vote and procedure on the fifth appeal.
That was when discussion broke down, and no one was sure how to proceed. Robert’s Rules of Order, the Assembly’s way of facilitating discussions, were not in effect because they were in a quasi-adjudicatory form.
After a long discussion, the Assembly voted to table its decision on the remaining appeals until July. The goal then is to break the deadlock and have the full Assembly in attendance.