May 16, 2013 | Vol. 39, No. 20

Letters to the Editor

Stikine River mineral

Tax exemptions shown in the above chart suggest the borough’s sales tax losses due to tax free day events are likely less than indicated at a recent assembly meeting. See Karen Ellingstad letter. (Data provided by Petersburg Borough offices)

development

To the Editor:

This letter is to inform Petersburg residents of an important presentation coming to our community next week. On Wednesday, May 22, Guy Archibald of SEACC and Chris Zimmer of Rivers Without Borders will be giving a very informative power point presentation on the proposed mineral development up the Stikine River. The following night there will be an informal question and answer gathering. Both events will be at the Council Chambers, starting at 7 p.m.

The proposed development of three separate mineral deposits up the Stikine could have huge negative impacts to the Stikine salmon runs as well as the Dungeness crab fishery on the Stikine delta. These three mines would be open pit mines, any two of which could be as large as the proposed Pebble mine, with the same issues of acid leaching and heavy metal contamination that threaten the Bristol Bay salmon runs. So as a community we need to become informed regarding the potential impacts to our fisheries. The proposed mines are currenly in the permitting process, so now is the time to become informed. I hope to see you there.

Eric Lee

More information needed

To the Editor:

When we make decisions about sales tax revenue, it would be a good idea to do the math. Let’s start with historical data: for the fiscal year ending 30 June 2012, total sales reported to the City were $95,570,231. Of that amount, $49,799,033 was reported as exempt. That’s 52% of the total sales reported. Sales to senior citizens accounted for only 8% of those exemptions; the other 92% of exemptions were government (21.6%), resale (14.5%), out-of-town sales (20%), “other” (7.5%) and sales over $1,200 (28.4%).

As to the calculation of “lost” revenue for tax-free days, using the number of $23,979 (or $28,000 as cited at the Assembly meeting) for “lost” sales tax revenue is misleading. Because merchants were required to report only total sales for the tax-free days, sales that would have been reported as exempt for other reasons were not broken out, so $23,979 (or $28,000) is not an accurate measure of how much sales tax revenue was “lost.” Let’s say $23,979 is 6% of the total sales for the tax-free days: that means total sales were $399,650 for the 2 tax-free days. Deducting the historical 52% of exempt sales, the actual taxable sales total would be $191,832, and the “lost” revenue would be $11,510. The data are not available to make a precise calculation, but it is likely that there were seniors who took advantage of the big sales on those days, and that more big-ticket items were purchased than usual, so it’s hard to believe that 100% of those days’ sales would have been taxable.

The bottom line is that there is much more information to be studied before decisions are made. And that information should be readily available to the Assembly and to the public. (I had to ask specifically at the Finance Department for this information. It does not appear in the FY 12 financial statement.)

So I would urge the Assembly to gather all the data, parse the numbers, and not base its decisions on misleading and incomplete information or single out Petersburg’s seniors, who put over $4 million into Petersburg’s economy last year and whose purchases represent only a small fraction of total exempt sales.

Karen Ellingstad

People voted for this

To the Editor:

Sue Flint is absolutely right. The Borough has no business throwing away $28,000 in tax revenues in a tight budget scenario. We need that money to cover the $30,000 needed to cover the price tag of hiring a consultant to facilitate the hiring of a new police chief. Past councils have saved money by doing the screening themselves, but nonetheless, we need to cover our expenses. While I doubt if the assembly had decided to take this task on themselves things would be different for tax-free day conversations, it would have gave Sue's position as a concerned money saving assembly person a little more validity. At least she had something to say. The lack of a motion to me is the most disturbing thing. I find it hard to believe that the assembly lacked the fortitude to address the issue, tear it apart, build it up, whatever, and vote on it. I think it deserved that much. The people did vote for this.

I would also like to applaud Sue for bringing the fact that 408, a number I often wondered about, senior citizens have sales tax free status in our borough. How much does that cost us a year? How is that number trending? Is it a growing percentage of our population? If it is, how do we maintain services with a self imposed declining tax base? These questions, and undoubtedly others need to be addressed, even if they are unpopular, when the borough assembly discusses revenues and spending.

Max Worhatch IV

Good will

was lost

To the Editor:

I must say I was very pleased with your last editorial and I actually agree with you. You were so right in the good will being lost—it is in addition to good will being lost previously by the action of the council/assembly.

Sigrid Medalen

Tax Free Day makes

difference

To the Editor and

Members of the Assembly:

I would like to respectfully disagree with the Assembly’s decision to not hold a Tax Free Day this spring.

Someone on the Assembly asked if it even makes a difference on Main Street. It does. Early May and October are really slow times of the year in retail, especially when you take into account that we have to gear up for our busiest seasons, summer and Christmas. The difference it made to my business was my sales went from four sales in 2011 on a comparable Saturday in May to seventeen sales in 2012 for the Tax Free Day. It was the same story in October. And that was just my sales, I didn’t keep track of people who just came in looking. Who knows, maybe those people saw something they liked and came back on another day when they did pay sales tax. So Tax Free Day does make a difference. With that extra money I was able to bring in I bought extra groceries that I normally couldn’t afford on a day that I paid sales tax, I purchased extra merchandise that I sold the rest of the year bringing in sales tax revenue that I wouldn’t have, and I was able to breathe a little easier knowing I wasn’t going to be eating Ramen noodles for the rest of the month.

And now the retailers are dealing with the downtown construction (which looks lovely, by the way, I’m not complaining). But it does impinge on our businesses. A little thing like this would really help us so we can stay in business and continue to collect sales tax the other 363 days of the year.

So please cut the retailers and locals a break. Give us our Tax Free Days. The voters brought it to fruition. Please don’t let it die. It is a good thing. And I really don’t like Ramen noodles for every meal…

Beth Loesch

Owner of Miele

Gallery & Framing

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