Voters will be deciding on a proposed end to Petersburg’s senior sales tax exemption this fall. Petersburg’s borough assembly Monday agreed to put the issue on the October ballot.
Local residents have asked to put the issue on the ballot this fall. The proposed ordinance would end the exemption from the borough’s six percent sales tax. Instead qualifying seniors could apply each year for a rebate.
Former assembly member John Havrilek this month made another pitch for removing the exemption. “I really think the seniors are going to stand up and show that they don’t want the rest of the community to support ‘em,” Havrilek told the assembly. “They have pride enough to carry their own weight and do their own share.”
Supporters of the change say more sales tax revenue is needed to help pay for borough services. The numbers of seniors granted a sales tax exemption card has topped 550 and has been growing as more people in the community reach retirement age.
Others have spoken up to keep the exemption arguing that the high cost of living here makes it difficult to survive on a fixed income. The measure is based on a similar change made in Sitka this year, although the Sitka assembly has the power to end that exemption. In Petersburg, the change can’t happen without approval of the voters.
Petersburg’s assembly passed the third and final reading of an ordinance making the change, pending voter approval. The bulk of the discussion among the assembly has been on the amount of the rebate, set at $300 for an individual or $450 for a couple.
“So at one time you had some possible suggestions about the rebate wasn’t enough, are you interested in changing that at all?,” assembly member Jeff Meucci asked Nancy Strand, who was acting mayor for the meeting.
“I cant at this point, from my seat right now,” Strand responded. “Somebody else could if they wanted to lower it. I think it’s important that it get on the ballot for the citizenry to approve or disapprove. I just still have issues with the amounts.”
No one suggested any changes and it just passed by a 4-0 vote. Mayor Mark Jensen, and assembly members Jeigh Stanton Gregor and Kurt Wohlhueter were not at the meeting. At the moment, the question is the only one local voters will decide in October.
Sales tax makes up nearly one-third of the revenue for Petersburg’s general fund, which includes general government services like administration, finance, parks and recreation, the library, police and fire and the local contribution to the school district.