Sales tax could double for some Mat-Su communities
No one likes to pay taxes, but people who live in the Mat-Su may find themselves paying a lot more if propositions for new sales taxes go through.
The cities of Palmer, Houston and Wasilla already have city sales taxes but residents might also decide to pay a new tax proposed by the Mat-Su Borough.
The Borough is considering a first ever general sales tax of 3 percent. The majority of the money raised would help pay for Valley schools that are struggling with an $11 million budget deficit.
Mat-Su Borough School Superintendent Monica Goyette said the district has received flat funding from both the Borough and the state in a time when costs are rising and the number of students is increasing. She said this year, the district is getting about $600 less per student. The result, she said, has been pay cuts, student activity fees shifted to families and the most crowded classrooms in the state.
“Our classroom sizes are at unprecedented levels,” said Goyette. “For example, high school is at 32 to one (pupil to teacher ratio) and that’s an average. We’ll have some classes lower than that, but we’ll probably have some classes that go into the forties.”
The proposed tax isn’t sitting well with everyone. Business owner Kelly McKay-Dolfi said, as far as she’s concerned, government spending has gotten out of hand.
“Right now, I am strongly disagreeing with paying any more taxes until the situation gets fixed,” said McKay-Dolfi. “I don’t think that statewide or borough-wide that money is being spent appropriately and it hasn’t for a long time.”
Some worry about what could happen if a borough tax is approved on top of the city taxes most Mat-Su communities already pay. That’s one reason why the city of Palmer has come out against the sales tax, according to Palmer City Manager Nate Wallace.
“It does add to the price and when you consider 6 percent in Palmer and zero percent in Anchorage or Eagle River, which is pretty darn close, it could change the balance of how the revenue is generated both for the businesses and the city,” said Wallace.
But not everyone thinks the price of a new sales tax is too high to pay. Fireside Books owner, David Cheezem, said if it would mean better schools, he’d be willing to pay.
“I’m Alaskan, and Alaskans hate taxes, “said Cheezem. “As bad as a sales tax would be for business, losing our schools, dismantling our schools is worse.”
The borough assembly will hold a public hearing on the sales tax proposal August 1. If they vote to put it on the October ballot, voters would have the final say on whether it’s implemented.