Petersburg assembly chambers (Joe Viechnicki/KFSK)

Petersburg’s borough assembly is meeting to consider an additional property tax increase on July 4th in response to the governor’s line item veto of school project debt reimbursement. The Independence Day holiday is the only option for getting enough assembly members to attend a meeting early this month.

Thursday’s meeting is scheduled an hour before the community’s parade for the Independence Day holiday. Thursdays work best for this assembly in the summertime, with over half working jobs in or connected to the commercial fishing industry. Assembly member Kurt Wohlhueter filled in to run a meeting in June and explained the change.

“Those of us that fish, the openings are usually Sunday through Wednesday and so then we come back to town, kind of regroup on a Thursday, Friday then leave Saturday to get back on the grounds again,” Wohlhueter said. “That was the pretense for moving it to Thursdays during the summertime.”

The proposed supplemental property tax would be only for property owners within service area one, the old city of Petersburg, and not for land owners in the greater borough. Money raised from that tax would go to pay off additional bond debt for the swimming pool and school projects. For years, the state has sent reimbursement payments to the borough for some of the cost of those construction projects. Governor Dunleavy Friday announced he was cutting those payments in half.

“Whether it’s taxes, whether it’s reductions, I think everyone realizes that there’s no easy way out of this or we would have found the easy way,” Dunleavy said at a Friday press conference. “But I believe that the communities are going to have to make the decision on how they’re going to deal with that.”

The supplemental tax levy would be on top of a small increase the assembly approved in late June. Combined that would mean a total increase of eight percent over the tax rate from last year. Tax bills would go up a total of 92 dollars for every hundred thousand dollars of assessed value. The borough has waited to send out property tax bills until the assembly makes this decision.

As for other options, the borough could pay off the additional bond debt from other accounts but would then have to repay that the following year. Or the assembly could vote to cut services to make up for the lost state payment.

The bonds cover construction of the swimming pool and an expansion of the vocational education building at the high school. Voters approved those bonds in late 2004. That was also the year voters approved bonding to do major renovations in all three school buildings, also subject to that state reimbursement. One interesting note about that vote – the city had to redo the election after an attorney discovered the city had not put language in the first ballot question in 2003 about picking up the full cost of the project if the state stopped these payments.

The borough is scheduled to pay off one of the swimming pool bonds in 2020, but other bonds for that project are on the books for another six years. The school renovations and voc ed expansion will be paid off in 2024 and 2025.

The meeting is Thursday, July 4th at 10 a.m. in borough assembly chambers. KFSK will broadcast the meeting live.