Council looks for more tax measures
The Nome Common Council started their session Monday evening with a work session on how to achieve a tax—sales or excise tax—on marijuana, tobacco or booze.
They want to tax marijuana to make money to cover the loss of the two percent seasonal sales tax. They want to tax alcohol to deter some from drinking.
The City would be stupid not to slap additional tax on marijuana sales, because based on proprietary sales tax information Nome’s one legal outlet, Gudlief, owned by Robin Thomas, was doing so well, according to Tom Moran, city manager.
According to Nome law, the Council can attach an excise tax by a vote of the Council, except that it cannot attach an excise tax to alcohol unless some other item is taxed as well. In other words, no earmarking alcohol by itself for excise tax. Excise tax is usually included in the price of the item, not added on like sales tax. According to a reading of state law by the City’s attorney, a municipality may not impose taxes on alcoholic beverages except as a property tax on alcoholic beverage inventories, or except as a sales tax on alcoholic beverages if sales taxes are imposed on other sales within the municipality.
The Council hashed over ways to get the public to accept alcohol taxed along with another “sin tax” on tobacco, or marijuana.
There are already two tax measures coming up on the municipal ballot in October—whether the City should impose a 11 percent bed tax and whether the City should roll back a seasonal two percent tax tacked onto the existing five percent sales tax. Some Council members thought that voters seeing even more tax questions on the ballot would cause voters to check no across the ballot.
Another scheme was to pair a marijuana tax question, with the increase in bed tax, bringing them both up to 11 percent.
Councilman Jerald Brown could see a tax on tobacco as much more harmful than marijuana, as tobacco caused more disease.
Councilman Doug Johnson disagreed. “There are more and more studies showing that anything you breathe can cause health issues,” Johnson said.
“Like dust,” someone quipped from the audience.
Brown thought the marijuana tax was opportunistic. Moran said an alcohol tax was to try to reduce alcohol abuse.
He underscored that the City needed money and taxing marijuana would raise money.
Enough signatures have been raised to put the seven percent seasonal sales tax to a vote in October. Should citizens want the seven percent tax cut back to five percent, the City will collect $750,000 fewer sales tax dollars.
The City can’t keep people and some folks are asking for dust control. “They want the roads cleared in winter and adequate police response,” Moran said.
When time for the regular meeting caught up with the group, they executed a rapid straw poll and found out most would vote for any one of the taxes or a combination of two to appear on the ballot.
The City administration will present a tax measure for a vote on whether it becomes a law.
In other business, the Council voted to extend the time Jim West Jr. has to get his building updated to Oct. 15.The property at 604 East Front has been through the abatement process and hearings. However, the City did not demolish the building at deadline. The City set a date for last week to start the bulldozer; West went to Second District Court to seek an emergency injunction and had it approved.
The court ruled that West could have an injunction against having his building destroyed until after he had applied for and undergone a rehearing before the Council. The Council voted unanimously to allow West until Oct. 15 to achieve a list of work orders to take the building out of the status of “public nuisance.”
The City has foreclosed a single residence building at Belmont Point formerly owned by the Cooperative Small Boat Fisherman’s Association for nonpayment of property taxes. At the meeting Monday evening, the Council held first reading and unanimously voted the ordinance into second reading to retain the building for employee housing.
Tom Moran advised the Council that he would apply for a grant to turn the building into employee housing as it is difficult to hire people during Nome’s housing shortage. Councilman Stan Andersen objected to rehabilitating the building for employee housing, as there was junk and garbage in the front yard and an old bus parked along side at the address—207 Prospect Place. Moran assured him that the place had been inspected and found needing very little to make it into a viable residence.
Mayor Richard Beneville reappointed Charles Lean to his expired seat on the Museum and Library Commission.