October 25, 2012 | Vol. 39, No. 43

Guest Editorial

City will dissolve if borough is approved

With the establishment of the State’s borough formation election in December, people are asking questions and the city is working to provide factual information as they answer those queries.

One person this week commented that some don’t realize the City of Petersburg will go out of existence if and when the borough is formed. There will be no more city government. The only remaining city within the borough will be the City of Kupreanof.

Were the City of Petersburg to remain in existence, we would not favor borough formation. Having lived in Ketchikan and submitted property taxes to both the borough and the city, thus enabling both entities could provide duplicate services to city residents, was a huge waste of tax revenue. The dissolution of the city will result in lower costs to taxpayers and more efficient delivery of services to borough residents. The city notes in its question and answer column on the Local Boundary Commission website that the Alaska Constitution favors a minimum number of local governments and disfavors duplication of tax-levying jurisdictions.

Another person asked if a member of the Kupreanof City Council could take a position on the Borough Assembly and serve on both. City Manager Steve Giesbrecht pointed to Section 2.10 of the Petition for Incorporation and replied, “Yes, providing it doesn’t violate the charter or ordinances of the City of Kupreanof.”

While those opposed to the borough formation proclaim, “big government will get bigger” under borough formation, it is not a given. Wrangell’s borough has been in operation since May 2008, and has not added employees using borough general funds (Tim Rooney letter to the editor, Oct. 11, 2012 edition). Given their experience, Petersburg likely can follow suit. Given that the new assembly will determine how and where borough services may be extended when requested by borough residents, there may be little need for new employees.

In their question and answer column, the city states that the cost of temporary additional staffing required for the completion of borough transition tasks will be paid for with the $600,000 the borough receives from the State of Alaska’s borough formation grant.

The city also states that with borough formation, “at the current level of state funding, which will probably continue, annual revenue sharing would increase by $288,000.”

Another often-expressed concern of those opposing big government is paying for city debt on schools, swimming pools and library (The new fire hall was fully paid for with State grant funds). The city explicitly points out, “Upon borough formation, general obligation bonded indebtedness of the former city becomes the obligation of Service Area 1 only, the area corresponding to the current city.” What a deal. Many borough residents will benefit from the use of schools, library, pool and other city infrastructure without paying for their construction costs.

Anyone with questions should feel free to contact the city manager or members of his staff with questions. They want to provide accurate information to voters, regardless of a constituent’s position on borough formation.

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