The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

Editor, Valdez Star 

Council pay and residential property tax cut to be on ballot

Voters will decide on charter change and give advisory vote for stipends


SOURCE: City of Valdez

The property tax timeline for 2016

Valdez voters will be tasked with deciding whether or not to give themselves a de facto property tax break, increase terms for city council and mayor, and an advisory vote for council pay.

The Valdez City Council directed Sheri Pierce, the city clerk, to add the three items to this May's municipal elections.

The city will receive $415,000 less in revenue if the future if the proposition passes that will increase the residential property tax exemption to $50,000. The current exception is $20,000.

This decreases the amount of property tax due to the city that homeowners will pay on their yearly tax bill.

Increasing the residential property tax deduction requires a vote of the people, but it is a confusing process according to Pierce.

"This is ratification of an action taken by the governing body which is a requirement under State Statute related directly to granting a property tax exemption," Pierce said in an email. "So, in the next couple of weeks the city council will adopt an ordinance which in the body of the ordinance will require "ratification by the voters" prior to becoming effective."

There will also be a proposition that will increase city council terms to three years, instead of the current two-year terms.

"This is truly a charter amendment," Pierce said.

There will also be advisory vote regarding paying council members and the mayor.

Mayor Larry Weaver, who is spearheading the move, said he believes paying council and mayor a stipend will encourage younger people to run for public office.

A stipend would help offset the hidden costs associated with serving and encourage people to run for office.

"I was shocked at the amount of time we had to put into this," Lea Cockerham said, during the discussions.

Weaver said a stipend for regular meetings is reasonable.

"I was looking at $100 per meeting for council, and $125 for mayor," he said. adding that he wants the pay for future mayors. He said he is retired and it does not matter to his personal circumstances.

Council all agree that the matter should be a referendum on the next ballot.

An advisory vote is not binding - it just gives city council the point of view of the electorate.

Council can still pass an ordinance to give its members a stipend whether it is approved on the ballot.

"The voters need to understand that their vote is not binding and does not restrict the council from adopting any future ordinance authorizing a stipend," Pierce said in an email. "The council does choose to find out what the public opinion is on this topic, so has requested an "advisory" vote which equates to a formal public opinion poll. Also, any ordinance authorizing compensation adopted by the city council AFTER the May election would not take effect until after the May 2017 election."


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