ITA: THE PAST
What We've Accomplished (in depth)
For brief version, click here
In the twelve years since ITA was organized to benefit
the taxpayers in the interior of Alaska, we have done the following:
IN THE CITY OF FAIRBANKS, ALASKA:
Fought Sales Taxes:
When the Council arbitrarily imposed sales taxes, we paid attorneys to draw up
petitions and expended hundreds of hours collecting signatures to force the issue to the
ballot. When the Council repeatedly ignored the vote of the people and continued to pass
sales tax ordinances, we continued to give city residents the right to vote, and each time
sales taxes were defeated.
Instituted a City Tax Cap:
With the end of the pipeline boom forcing private sector wages down, city residents
found themselves still supporting inflated public employee wages. To finance further
raises (with no corresponding drop in government spending) taxes kept increasing. ITA
introduced initiatives to put a revenue cap in the city charter (where only a vote of the
people could remove it). Now the people, not the Council, determine the level of
government. Petitions were actually filled and voted on twice, the second time after the
courts threw out the first cap when records supporting its institution mysteriously
disappeared from the City Clerk's Office.
Rolled Back Property Taxes:
Because the City Council had hurriedly raised property taxes when the first cap was
thrown out, the ITA also sponsored a "roll back" initiative which allowed city
residents to vote to return their property taxes to the level in effect when the paperwork
disappeared. City property taxes decreased from 7 mills to 2.8 mills as a result of that
action. Since then, we have continued to seek economies of government which would lower
the city budget, and hence city property taxes.
Tightened the City Tax Cap:
The City Tax Cap needed clarification, in another area. Some Councilmen interpreted
that cap as only covering property tax, and attempted to enact other types of taxes,
without giving you the right to vote. Since the cap is permanent in the City Charter, we
only needed to do an initiative to put a clarification in the charter to make it
absolutely clear that the cap is a cap on all revenues. We did the initiative and it
passed easily. Now, if a sales tax is instituted without your vote, some other source of
revenue, such as property taxes, must be lowered.
IN THE FAIRBANKS NORTH STAR BOROUGH:
Fought Sales Taxes:
When the Borough initiated a sales tax, ITA sponsored a referendum so Borough
residents could vote on it. Without waiting for the vote, the borough fought the right of
the people to file the referendum, and began collecting the taxes. ITA had to hire an
attorney and go to court for a restraining order to stop collection. ITA won in the end,
after taking the issue all the way to the Supreme Court. When the vote was finally taken,
sales tax was defeated in the Borough.
Successfully Petitioned for a Borough Tax Cap:
Unlike the City, the Borough is governed by state law and does not have a charter,
where a "people instituted" cap could be permanently inserted. Instead, state
law protects, for two years, all ordinances instituted by the people through the mechanism
of initiative or referendum. Five times we have sponsored the revenue cap which keeps your
taxes from soaring without your consent.
Clarified and Renewed the Borough Tax Cap:
Our "tax cap" is actually a revenue cap. It sets up guidelines limiting the
amount of revenue that can be raised to the amount raised the previous year, with
exceptions we were required by law to include. This ordinance was brought to the voters
originally by an initiative action by the people. State law holds that if the voters
approve an ordinance brought by petition, it is protected for two years against any change
or repeal. Because after two years the governing body can vote it into oblivion (without
again bringing it to the voters), the only way to protect it has been to repeat the
initiative action every two years. 1995 was the year to renew the cap, but due to
confusion of the voters, coupled with an unusually low voter turn-out, the very popular
cap was narrowly defeated. The old cap did not go away, but was no longer protected. The
Assembly could modify or repeal it at any time.
NEW IMPROVED VERSION OF CAP
Over the years, the Borough Tax Cap has helped us to keep borough spending
under control, allowing the borough very little leeway to increase our taxes without the
peoples' permission. However, it hadn't served us as well as it should. Consequently, with
the help of our attorney Peter Aschenbrenner, we made some technical changes to the
revenue cap in 1995, which would result in a tighter, better cap, much less prone to
misinterpretation. This was the cap put on by the voters in the 1996 Municipal election.
The new cap replaced the old, leaving the Assembly to remove the old one. One major
addition is a requirement to publish the tax cap calculations for the public, as Anchorage
has been doing for years.
According to Aschenbrenner, "Additional changes. . . include
to insure that as bonds are paid off, the cap will fall, on a dollar-for-dollar basis, net
of state debt service reimbursement."
What we asked of the voters was a new, improved Tax Cap, with its full
two year protection, to replace the old cap which had lost its protection. We were
attempting to remove the cap to allow your taxes to rise without your input!
We wanted to limit government, not the people.
Once it was legally clarified, we were again at the Tanana Valley State Fair seeking
signatures of registered voters on our petitions to renew the Borough tax cap for another
two years. Thousands sought us out and helped us complete the signature drive, so the
issue was placed on the October 8th ballot, as Proposition C. Again, as in the previous
year, the ballot wording was confusing to the voters, but it needed a YES vote to put the
tightened cap in place, and it got it. The new revised revenue cap is now in place and
safe for another two years.
While the 1996 candidates ITA endorsed for Borough Assembly and School Board (who all
supported the tax cap) were not successful in the election, we did retain two very
important City Council seats; those currently occupied by Jerry Cleworth, and John Immel.
We had some good candidates to fill Assembly and School Board seats, but ITA could not do
it alone, we needed the help of all the voters to get them elected. We always encourage
each and every one of you to do all that is in your power to get involved in any way you
can and work to help bring both the city and the borough back to a citizen's government
that will, in fact, represent us all.
ITA at the Fair
In 1997, ITA once again had a booth at the Tanana Valley State Fair, in the Borealis
building. For the first time, it was a corner booth. Just before the fair opened, Layne
St. John (a term limited member of the Borough Assembly) introduced ordinances to remove
term limits from the Mayor and Assembly. Acting quickly, ITA filed an initiative action to
allow the voters to decide if term limits should be lifted or not (after all, it was the
voters who had approved term limits in 1990!) We collected signatures on the petition at
the fair, handed out information to educate new residents, and registered new voters as
ITA Sweeps the Election!
The October 7th election of 1997 saw ITA endorsed candidates winning
every seat but one. See our Elections
Page for more details. The Borough Mayor's race went to a runoff
election when a former assemblyman came in a few percentage points ahead of the one ITA
endorsed. Both issues passed, which ITA had supported: Term Limits were reaffirmed,
and the Fairbanks Port
ITA: THE PRESENT
The Ongoing Effort:
Helping Control Property Taxes:
Initiatives and referendums are not our only endeavors. With your tax cap (really a
revenue cap) in place, the Borough must lower the mill rate (hence your property taxes) if
revenues from other sources increase. Since the cap is based upon the previous year's
income, lowering the budget one year will lower the cap for the following year, which will
usually mean that the property tax mill rate will decrease. Because of this, ITA has, in
addition to helping you renew the Borough Tax Cap every two years, continued to monitor
city and borough government to find ways to reduce the budget. Hundreds of volunteer
man-hours are put in manning booths at fairs, going door to door with petitions, attending
meetings, and researching local government.
Working Behind the Scenes:
Initiatives and referendums are not our only endeavors. We continue to monitor both
City and Borough Government, working tirelessly to lower your taxes, or at least ensure
that you get your money's worth. Individual members attend countless meetings, send
letters and public opinion messages to legislators, and lobby by telephone and in person.
Collectively, we publish a newsletter to let interested subscribers (members or not) know
what is going on in the city and borough that might effect their taxes.
In 1999, ITA began efforts to add a 60% approval requirement to votes on general
obligation bonds in the city and borough, and the same for votes on new powers in the
borough, new services in the city. We expect to be going to court to establish the voters
right to do this. Donations for this effort will be appreciated and wisely spent.
What You Can Do to Help
ITA has come a long way, but we still have a lot to do. Our goal is to ensure the most
cost effective government possible, and to make it affordable for everyone to live here,
with enough discretionary income to enjoy it as well. If you would like to be a part of a
positive approach to helping yourself and your community, please feel free to join us.
We have sometimes been called "negative" because we have been forced to
fight negative things like waste and corruption in our local government. We think it can
only be positive when the result is the kind of rise in public awareness that has occurred
in recent years, evidenced in part by increased voter turnout in elections. We think the
public's realization that they CAN make a difference is a very positive thing. We can only
be proud of the small part we played in raising the percentage of participation in local
government and local elections.
ITA Candidates' Forum
Our forum each year is open to everyone, but is especially designed to help our
members decide whom to endorse for the local elections. No canned questions are used; the
audience is welcome to ask their own questions. After the forum, members vote on
endorsements. Endorsements are based mainly on how fiscally responsible we believe the
candidates to be, and on whether or not the ballot propositions will impact taxpayers of
the interior. Read our newsletter or check out our web page for dates for this year's
ITA on the Internet
The fall of 1996 saw ITA join the World Wide Web, now at http://www.ptialaska.net/~ita
where our web site, while never quite finished, nevertheless addressed all issues and
candidates we supported. Also included at our site is an e-mail address, a membership blank, and this document.
Future plans include a breaking news feature to keep friends updated on the latest news to
impact their taxes. You are welcome to send us an e-mail at email@example.com with your suggestions to make our
page even more relevant and informative.
Join us in the fight for more
responsible local government. We have committees that always need volunteer members, we
are always on the lookout for information (already many in government bring us inside
information we need, often anonymously), put your money where your mouth is, and above
all, vote every election, but be sure it is an informed vote!