Borough officials to pitch tax initiative

In the wake of voters’ rejection of a sales tax, a pair of borough officials pledged Tuesday to propose a statewide initiative aimed at changing state law to increase the allowable residential property tax exemption from $20,000 per home to $100,000.

The Alaska Legislature has considered similar measures as recently as this spring. Fairbanks North Star Borough Assemblywoman Nadine Winters said borough officials, who for two years have looked for ways to lower property taxes for homeowners, are ready to take the measure straight to voters.

Winters said she and Mayor Jim Whitaker will approach the assembly this month for money to organize the initiative effort. She said she hopes to see the measure placed on ballots statewide in 2009.

“My feeling is we’re never going to get that residential exemption raised through the Legislature,” she said. “If you can’t get there one way, you try another way.”

The measure, she said, would not impose higher exemptions on municipalities but would instead let communities determine their own exemption levels.

Winters said the measure would also let future exemptions grow by the rate of inflation, which would preclude the Legislature from having to revisit the issue every year.

In February, the assembly passed a resolution calling on the Legislature to increase the exemption to $50,000, citing increased tax assessments and rising heating fuel and gasoline prices as justification. The Fairbanks City Council later called for the allowable exemption to rise to $100,000, and candidates for borough and city offices this fall have consistently pointed to the prospect of higher tax exemptions for homeowners as an easy way to reduce families’ tax burdens.

“My feeling is there is a general consensus that this is a good way to go,” Winters said.

Contact staff writer Chris Eshleman at 459-7582.

By Chris Eshleman, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

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