Petersburg’s borough assembly Monday approved two more days this year in the borough without sales tax on local purchases. However assembly members expressed interest in ending that tradition.
The Chamber of Commerce retail committee requested tax free days on May 7th and October 8th as a way to encourage purchases from local stores, instead of out of town or on the internet.
Vice-mayor Cindi Lagoudakis had concerns about approving tax free days in the current budget climate. “I think this sends the wrong message,” Lagoudakis said. “I understand merchants have said that it’s some of their best sales day of the year, it’s really unclear to me whether that just shifts purchases from one day to another or it’s purchases that would not have occurred otherwise.”
There were also two tax free days last year. The borough lost more than 12,000 dollars in tax revenue during the first day in May and nearly 10,000 dollars in October.
The borough’s Parks and Recreation director Donnie Hayes pointed out that local businesses support borough programs through sponsorships and donations. “That money comes into my department time and time again to make sure that we have wonderful activities for the kids, the adults, for the community in general,” Hayes said. “And that’s important for our community. It’s important for us to get together. It’s important for us to have recreation opportunities. And so I hope that the assembly will take that into consideration as well that this is a moment of good will for those businesses that really do support the borough substantially.”
Assembly members were convinced to approve the tax free days again this year, but not without misgivings. Kurt Wohlhueter, attending the meeting on the phone, said it might be the last time he voted yes on the issue. “It’s not because I don’t support the business and it’s not because I don’t believe this is a worthy cause,” Wohlhueter said. “But this is the only community in Southeast Alaska that not only gives its senior citizens sales tax exemptions but we also have sales tax exemption days. We’re really going to have to take a real hard look and I want the community involved in this discussion because we are going to be looking at fund reductions from the state and we are going to have to be more self-supporting.”
The resolution passed 5-0 with mayor Mark Jensen and assembly member Jeigh Stanton Gregor not at the meeting.