The debate over incorporating Big Lake as a second class Alaska city has heated up… well, for Big Lake folks. Below are two exclusive takes on how to vote, one by Sandy Baker for the new designation, and the opposing side argument by Butch Moore, both residents of Big Lake. Mail-in ballots have been sent out on October 5th, and the first tally will be on October 27th. Which dog do you support in the race?
Have faith, not fear, when it comes to Big Lake becoming a new city in the Mat-Su Borough
By Sandy Baker
Joseph Goebbels once said, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”
This belief seems to be the inspiration behind the anti-incorporation strategy of those Big Lake residents opposing the formation a 2ndClass City. Regrettably, sometimes people may find it convenient to accept simple misunderstanding of facts than make the effort to learn the truth,
Let’s set the record straight.
It’s been said the “Petitioner’s Plan” for Big Lake’s proposed incorporation is full of holes; opponents claim it actually won’t work. This is a mischaracterization of the administrative process. The petition is the method through which residents of Big Lake can seek authority from the State to decide if they want to govern themselves. The petition process WAS certified, ballots have been mailed to registered voters and the process ends with a certification of the ballots cast. You have until October 27th.
The petition to become a city requires substantive documentation designed to demonstrate a community’s capability to begin and manage a new municipality (city structure). It addresses if the community has the intellectual capital and sufficient revenues to finance its responsibilities; it addresses whether or not there is a clear distinction of boundaries.
Big Lake met the test of the elements of what comprises an Alaska city. The petition was approved by the State of Alaska. Now the residents decide by their vote.
Per the Alaska’s Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development, there are 19 First Class cities and 115 Second Class cities. This process is nothing new to the staff handling incorporation. If there are holes in the Big Lake incorporation plan, DCCE can and will address them accordingly. It is not in the State’s best interest to set Big Lake up to fail.
The fact Big Lake residents have been approved to cast a ballot on incorporation validates there are sufficient resources for a new city to exercise its responsibilities and meet its financial obligations. Clearly the State believes that Big Lake has the capability to govern itself. The State’s stamp of approval does not include tax hikes. The approval does not include changing tax exemptions. The “Plan,” as it has been presented and approved, does not have Big Lake losing any services but does allow for better representation and better attention to our roads.
It is necessary for residents and neighbors of Big Lake to forge on a plan that positively affects the community’s future. Let’s work in solidarity to implement a municipal direction affording respect of life, health and safety for current and future residents.
The incorporation effort is all about the residents of Big Lake assuming an influential position when it comes to matters affecting the community’s future. The question at hand is whether or not WE want to make Big Lake’s decisions or to rely on policymakers and bureaucrats from outside of our neighborhoods.
If you err on allowing the Mat-Su Borough to continue making decisions for Big Lake, yet you’re inclined to support city infrastructure in the future, when exactly will that “future” be? Will delaying incorporation of a community nearing the population of the City of Palmer be prudent in perpetuity?
Many Big Lake residents deem a delay, and shelving of the debate, as a neglect of responsible, locally-controlled government.
Big Lake’s persona is slowly changing. The trickle of decline is beginning to affect the character of the community many seek to celebrate and preserve.
When is the best time to properly influence the decisions that affect us? Shouldn’t we begin to do so now and learn with small, methodic steps before we face major economic and development decisions of the future like a new port, road expansion and commerce? If 134 communities in Alaska had the wherewithal to incorporate, and the majority successfully, isn’t it reasonable to assume Big Lake can too.
Don’t be misguided by the fear mongering and confusion sown by the anti crowd shouting: “We can’t.”
Making Big Lake a new, cohesive city is no longer a question of “IF” we can afford to, but rather “WHEN?”
The time is now to incorporate Big Lake.
Questions you may want answers to before you vote on Big Lake becoming a City.
By Butch Moore
The petitioners in favor of Big Lake becoming “A City” have done so on the basis that the Mat-Su Borough (MSB) is not giving us value for the Road Taxes we pay. They say, “We are paying $1.3 million in road taxes, but only get $600,000 in maintenance and we think we can do it better and for less cost”. NOT TRUE! HERE ARE THE BIG LAKE FACTS!
Roads Only: Actual 2015 Big Lake RSA #21 costs provided by the MSB.
1. How much did Big Lake (WE) pay the Mat-Su Borough in road taxes? $1,242,959
2. What was the Mat-Su Borough’s administrative cost to Big Lake? **$164,309
3. How much in road services did the Mat-Su Borough provide to Big Lake? $741,797
4. What was left over for the Big Lake Capital Road Improvements (CIP) budget? $337,150
5. How much did we receive from the MSB CIP budget in capital improvements? *$1,136,326
6. Total 2015 road value provided by the MSB? $2,379,852
Big Lake City Petitioners (BLCP’s) proposed Budget from their “Schedule D”
1. What is the Big Lake City Petitioners administrative cost to us? **$503,272
2. How much budgeted in road services will the Big Lake City Petitioner provide? ***$600,000
3. $150,000+/- in un-budgeted maintenance (See below) $150,000
4. Total estimated road value provided by Big Lake Petitioners $1,253,272
*Capital Road Improvements are MSB funds and Grants the MSB acquired for Big Lake-Not taxes we/Big Lake paid.
** The proposed Big Lake City administration cost is 3 times the MSB’s cost.
***The road maintenance budget provided by the Petitioner was only $600,000. Nowhere in its budget are the required supplies of sand, calcium chloride, culvert thawing, street signs, etc. The $150,000 for critical services was left out of the budget and submitted to the Local Boundary Commission.
The City’s NEW budget to take over only the “roads” leaves $0.00 for capital improvements and other services.
Did you read your ballot? You are not just voting on roads!
Ballot Measure #2 Property Tax Question, “Shall the City of Big Lake be authorized to levy a 3.09 mil property tax?
1) The Big Lake Roads RSA #21 tax, and 2) The non-area wide property tax for economic development, library, and animal control.
If you vote yes on the ballot, you are voting for the new City of Big Lake to take over control of not just the roads, but also the library, animal control, economic development and other services currently provided by the Borough.
Missing budget items: operating capital, round-a-bout, library, animal control and economic development, all of which are not in the Petitioners’ proposed budget. Taxes are collected for the previous year, so there will be a bank loan, including “points and interest” that could cost $50,000 – $100,000. The roundabout maintenance and lighting, after it is built, is estimated to cost around $35,000 per year. If the Mat-Su Borough’s new Assembly, with a reduced budget, does not vote to subsidize the library, Big lake will pay for it at about $400,000 per year. The taxes collected for the library is about $100,000: $400,000 – $100,000 = <$300,000>. None of these expenses are in the Petitioners’ proposed budget. Yes, that is correct; we now have a $385,000 to $435,000 deficit, we are in the hole and the Mat-Su Borough will not pay for and provide these services if we are a City. If Big Lake becomes a “City” our taxes will go up and our services will go down.
Why would we want to take over and pay more for services we have now, at a great value from the Mat-Su Borough?