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Craig keeps its property tax

Daily News Staff Writer

Voters in Craig rejected a ballot referendum on Tuesday that would have removed the municipality’s property tax.

The Prince of Wales Island community voted 246-61 in opposition to the measure, which would have sunset Craig’s citywide property tax, effective July 1, 2025.

Craig is the only city on the island with a property tax.

According to Craig Mayor Tim O’Connor, those taxes help fund a number of important services.

“It maintains the pool, sports programs for the school — the high school, elementary and middle schools, the road plowing services in the winter, the parks and recreation throughout the city,” O’Connor told the Daily News prior to the Oct. 3 vote.

But one of the referendum’s creators, Andy Deering, explained his rationale for repealing the tax in two videos posted to Youtube.

One of his key points is the idea of personal ownership of property. He compares the city to a landlord of sorts, and the residents who are required to pay taxes as tenants.

Deering spoke to the Daily News on Friday and said although he hoped the outcome would swing the other way, he was pleased that voters in Craig had a chance to determine their own future.

“I’m disappointed that it didn’t pass, but I think that the referendum itself was a success just in that we did get it on the ballot,” Deering said. “… How many people in their lifetime have the opportunity to vote directly on their taxation?

“That’s really a rare thing — I think it might be a once-in-a-lifetime deal for most people,” he added.

To get the referendum on the ballot, Deering needed to have 10 co-sponsors and gather 76 signatures — 25 percent of the number of voters who voted in last year’s election.

O’Connor told the Daily News on Friday that he was pleased that the referendum failed, noting that voter turnout was quite high for a municipal election in Craig, attributing the turnout largely to the referendum.

“I was pretty happy,” O’Connor said. “… It was less than 20 percent of the entire vote, and it was one of the biggest turnouts that we’ve had in over six or eight years.”

“I really believe that there are a lot of people who came out just to vote against that,” O’Connor added.

O’Connor credited a newsletter that the City of Craig distributed as a reason why he thought the measure failed.

“Part of it was becoming more informed, we posted a city newsletter kind of discussing what would happen if this should pass,” O’Connor said, noting that he thought people became generally better informed on the matter as election day approached.

Deering made a point to highlight that he didn’t want to come off as upset about the results, noting that “the people have spoken,” but he did say he was a bit dismayed by the extent to which the city itself would come out in opposition to the referendum.

“The City of Craig actually came out with a city newsletter, that was an election edition,” Deering said. “… They sent that to everybody’s mailbox in town and basically what it was was a two-page opposition to the citizen’s referendum.”

“They didn’t ask us for any alternative point of view in there or anything, and I really didn’t expect them to do that,” Deering added. “… I’m fine with the outcome of (the vote), I just didn’t like the city’s methods.”

At the end of the day, O’Connor said that he believed the community had made the right decision.

“We’re very happy that it did not pass and that it showed that over 80 percent of our population had enough sense to do their research and to vote their hearts and what they felt, because they appreciate what the city does for them,” O’Connor said. “… We’re doing as good as we can to manage the trust that (voters) put in us with those tax dollars.”

Deering said that as of now he doesn’t have plans for any future ballot initiatives, but did praise the process itself and the fact that folks have an opportunity as private citizens to get referendums put on ballots.

“I think it’s a great thing that the Alaska Constitution and the state statues allow and I’d like to see more people take advantage of it,” Deering said.