Council drops boats from personal property tax list
A Council discussion Monday night centered on the difficulty of ascertaining the worth of personal property as well as ensuring the fair and equitable reporting of tax liability under the honor system.
“We have no mechanism by which to measure the value of personal property,” said Councilwoman Jennifer Reader. “We need some sort of fairness gauge to use. We can’t run up in yards and turn on ATVs and look in conexes,” she added.
Language of the ordinance, before it was struck out, noted that “declaration of value on snow machines and ATVs is done on the honor system with uneven participation and poor enforcement resulting in unfairly taxing the honest few while ignoring the dishonest majority.”
The Council unanimously adopted an ordinance reaffirming the current list of exemptions and removing several items from taxing obligation—all boats and associated trailers used primarily for personal use and food gathering activities. Thus boats, plus motors, join snowmachines and ATVs on the list of exempted property.
Tax on personal property brings in an estimated $400,000 to $500,000 per year, of which only $ 8,000 come from taxing ATVs and snowmachines, according to Bryant Hammond, city clerk.
Such vehicles in commercial use will be taxed.
“I am reluctant to lose the source of revenue, but if we can’t track it, I would support exempting personal property,” Councilman Jerald Brown said.
The Council did not see the ordinance as perfect, but decided to pass it “to get something on the books” by Jan. 1.
They will rework the document with more information as well as information from Hammond. The subject of taxing airplanes is sure to come up, along with taxing Alaska Airlines and other companies flying out of Nome. The City derives tax from property leases at the airport, interim City Manager John Handeland said, and other tax could come from ground service equipment used in Nome.
The City will research the taxing of airplanes in other municipalities.
He had raised the issue of lifting tax on vehicles used for subsistence, Brown said, because the cost of living in Nome is high and citizens engage in food gathering to alleviate such high costs.
Councilwoman Meghan Sigvanna Topkok had issues with the term subsistence, she said. Although the term is legal federal law, the local practice is living off the land, for food collection, as well as spiritual and cultural well-being, as well as being better for the environment and healthier for people, Topkok said.
In other business, the Council has been in touch with other municipalities in the state through Alaska Municipal League to enable collection of sales tax goods from remote sellers—E-bay, Amazon and other online stores.
After voting against funding NEST winter shelter facility two times, the City approved $30,000 to restore money cut from the facility. In a formal letter to the Council, Rhonda Schneider, executive director of Nome Community Center reminded he Council that not all who come in for shelter are intoxicated. “Families who live in our region have varying needs and we work together as a community to provide services when folks are in need of our help,” Schneider said. “The winter shelter is one of the services designed with the very simple mission of making sure that no person dies of exposure during the coldest months of the year,” she said.
Last year the shelter received $122,000 from the state, but this year only $99,000. Norton Sound Economic Development Corp., Norton Sound Health Corp., Bering Straits Native Corp. and Sitnasuak Native Corp. also contribute, according to Schneider.
The Council and domestic violence advocates once more discussed the ongoing process of establishing a Public Safety Commission and the process to select volunteers to serve on the advisory panel.
Several people, including youth, rose to the podium to protest a stringent background check that they thought was overtaxing and a violation of privacy.
She had applied to serve April 26 and supplied her Social Security Number, Darlene Trigg said, signing away more rights to privacy than the ordinance required from people wanting to serve on any other city commission. The form wanted permission to collect information on mental health and medical history, DMV driving records, plus credit check.
The process was onerous, Trigg said. “We could be working on policies; we could have people doing things,” Trigg said. Lisa Ellanna told the Council she echoed Trigg’s comments.
“Who is going to look at these? How long is the consent effective?” Ellanna asked. “It is going too far.”
Handeland explained the City had retained a third party to conduct the background checks on candidates. He would talk to the contractor to see where the form could be edited.
Adelaine Alaasiaq Ahmasuk went to the podium during public comment period to inform the Council of a case of assault that she felt had gone four months without being handled in a timely manner. She presented research on the court system and public safety requirements that she felt had not been observed, including notification of the victim of upcoming bail review and release.
Victims could seek the services of Sharon Sparks, victims advocate at the Nome Police Dept., Handeland said.
Ken Morton of Nome Joint Utility System report had good news for NJUS power consumers. Power Cost Equalization was back in the state budget, a subsidy of about $65 a month on 500 kWh usage by households. The subsidy will appear on the current bill, but July’s retroactive amount will be appear on the September’s statement, according to Morton.
More good news: Fall cleanup week runs from Sept. 3 through 14. City Hall will have yellow trash bags available. “You call—we haul” will operate during the week limited to vehicles and “white goods (appliances)” with a phone call to 443-6663. There will be free dump days during the first two weeks of September on Saturday, Monday and Wednesday between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Then free dump day will revert to the regular free Saturday schedule.
Mayor Richard Beneville in his mayor’s report applauded youth who had come to the Council meeting and were becoming active in town government.
Finally, the Council made a motion to go into executive session to consider three finalists for position of Nome’s city manager. These are John K. Handeland, interim city manager, Randy Robertson of Maryland and W. Glenn Steckman of Pennsylvania, the three named after an executive session at a special meeting of the Council Aug. 20. A meeting for the public to see the candidates is to be announced. The Council conducted the Aug. 20 interviews via teleconference at the Northwest Campus UAF.