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If life isn't complicated enough, the City Council OK'd a 1-percent seasonal sales tax at its latest meeting.
But it will revisit the action at its next meeting because, immediately after the vote, Council Member Bob Sivertsen asked for reconsideration.
Sivertsen likely is the man of the hour for bookkeepers and businesses throughout town — especially if he can keep the sales tax the same year-round or figure out a way to eliminate the need for it all together.
The Council has been discussing a tax increase, trying to figure out how to do it without causing greater financial stress for the people of Ketchikan. No one wants to bear greater costs.
Frankly, staff costs are the largest component of many budgets; cuts in positions — which means services — will be necessary sooner or later because the community can handle only so much of a tax increase to cover payroll without serious economic hardship.
In addition, the community must maintain its infrastructure to remain a viable, economic community. That means reliable water and sewer services, plus fire halls, libraries, and other public structures.
For example, the community approved a bond and built a new library. Choosing a site for the structure created a furor, and some folks still aren't happy that the city built a library; others are unhappy about where it was built.
But the key point is that the voting public made its decision. Everyone in the community who meets the requirements for being a voter had the opportunity to cast a vote. Only a small percentage did, which goes to show that regardless of age, race, or economic standing, those who participate make decisions for the entire community.
In the end, the voters supported building a library, and voters, not being stupid, knew it would have to be paid for. Just like any other bond issue results in the citizens paying.
That said, bonds and services cost money. Voters passed the bonds; their vote means they support the raising of the funds to pay for them. Voters haven't overwhelmed City Council meetings suggesting that their own jobs or the jobs of their families, friends and neighbors should be eliminated in order to cover the city's expenses. Except for a few possible voters, the public has been fairly quiet. The Council can only deduce at this point that the community wants to preserve city jobs and services, and that a sales tax increase is the appropriate direction.
But it shouldn't be a direction that increases the workload and the cost for businesses who would need to accommodate a tax change every six months. Accommodations would include, but not be limited to, preparing cash registers, and perhaps computer systems, to figure the accurate tax on purchases correctly for the appropriate time of the year. For businesses who figure tax manually, it would be a challenge to remember at times to avoid charging the wrong tax at the wrong time. It would create confusion.
Given that, the Council should trash the idea of a 1-percent seasonal sales tax, which will complicate collecting and paying sales tax, and implement a half-percent year-round tax — if it must increase taxes at all.