A proposed one percent sales tax increase meant for a future aquatic wellness center failed to get past the Skagway Borough Assembly on a 3-2 vote during its third reading on Dec. 17.
Though the increase was originally intended for a pool, it soon became a way to pay for future and current municipal bonds and projects.
Assemblyman Jay Burnham and Assemblywoman Angela Grieser argued that the money should be used solely for the pool, and voted to return the ordinance to its original state. But Assemblymen Steve Burnham Jr., Tim Cochran and Spencer Morgan voted against it, causing the motion to fail. Assemblyman Dan Henry was absent.
[quote_right]“Those numbers start adding up where we can’t possibly pay for these things,” Morgan said.[/quote_right]
“We need to be smart with our money because there is a finite amount,” Cochran said. “We will overextend ourselves.”
The assembly faces a lengthy list of future projects, including senior housing, a track for the school, aquatic health center, port improvements and more, with the $12 million bond for the Public Safety Facility on top of it all.
“Those numbers start adding up where we can’t possibly pay for these things,” Morgan said.
Burnham Jr. said if the amendment had passed, it would tell the community that one-sixth of their tax is allotted to the pool, while the remaining five-sixths are used to run the community and not dedicated to any one thing.
“I believe that is why we currently have the ordinance set up the way it is. It’s not specific because it allows us to do what’s necessary to run the community,” he said.
He said the increase would improve the quality of life in Skagway, not just because of a pool, but because it will allow the municipality to pay its bills, not cut non-profits, continue to fund the school beyond the cap and more.
“It’s up to us to get out there and explain what this is for,” he said.
But Jay Burnham said amending the ordinance to make the tax applicable only to the pool would make it straightforward and help people know what they are voting for. To build the pool, the municipality needs funds, he said.
“This is the vehicle to get those funds.”
But with the failed amendment, the original went back to the table and also failed, with Burnham Jr., Cochran and Morgan voting for it and Jay Burnham and Grieser voting against it. If it had passed it would have gone to the voters.
Schaefer created an ad hoc pool committee in an effort to figure out specifics of the project and more concrete cost estimates and figures. The committee met for the first time on Tuesday, after this paper went to print.