The question of whether to exempt unprepared foods from sales tax is likely to be posed to Juneau residents via poll before appearing on municipal ballots after Monday night’s Committee of the Whole meeting. (Unsplash / nrd)

The question of whether to exempt unprepared foods from sales tax is likely to be posed to Juneau residents via poll before appearing on municipal ballots after Monday night’s Committee of the Whole meeting. (Unsplash / nrd)

Food tax exemption to get a survey instead of a vote

Advisory vote during fall election nixed by Assembly members, who say poll will provide better data

Juneau voters will apparently be getting a poll, rather than going to the polls, to determine whether they favor eliminating sales taxes on food.

City and Borough of Juneau Assembly members previously nixed a proposal to put a question implementing an exemption on the October municipal election ballot, which may have been paired with raising the city’s 5% sales tax to 6% from April through September to make up for the lost revenue. Instead, the Assembly supported an advisory vote on the question and, depending on the outcome, possibly a “real” vote next year.

But Deputy Mayor Maria Gladziszewski, during the Assembly’s Committee of the Whole meeting Monday night, proposed the opinion poll after reviewing the draft language for two sets of advisory vote questions submitted by city officials to the committee.

“These ballot questions I think are confusing,” she said. “If people pass them, we have to work on this again, and if we pass another (ballot) vote people are going to wonder if they already voted on it.”

Advocates say exempting non-prepared foods from sales taxes will help low-income residents. But there was considerable pushback to a seasonal sales tax from many local businesses who do little or no businesses with tourists, arguing it will severely impact both companies and customers purchasing big-ticket items such as vehicles and home-improvement materials.

Gladziszewski said her preference at earlier meetings was putting a question actually implementing the food tax exemption on the ballot. But since that was rejected, hiring a pollster means a wider range of questions can be asked and help Assembly members determine what should appear on a future ballot if residents appear to favor one.

While a scientifically valid survey would limit questioning to a representative sample of residents, she said additional methods such as an online poll will allow for open participation by all and can be used for comparative purposes.

The draft ballot questions submitted to the committee by City Attorney Robert Palmer consisted of “A” and “B” groups.

The “A” group asked four questions, first about whether the voter favors a food tax exemption and then three questions about options for making up for the lost revenue. The options were a seasonal sales tax increase, a year-round sales tax increase and an increase in the property tax mill rate. No specific amounts for the tax increases are included in the draft questions, but a 6% seasonal sales tax, 5.5% year-round sales tax, or a 1 mill property tax increase were discussed by the Assembly during previous meetings.

The “B” group narrowed the list to three questions, stating “the Assembly intends on exempting food from sales tax” and asking voters which of the three compensatory tax increases they prefer.

City Manager Rorie Watt said hiring a company to do a survey this fall will likely cost roughly $30,000.

Most of the other Assembly members agreed with a poll instead of an advisory ballot question, but Carole Triem said she doesn’t see a survey accomplishing much.

“It’s still going to have to go on the ballot and we’re still going to have to vote on it,” she said. “I feel it’s somewhat pointless to survey people before they have to vote on it anyways.”

Contact reporter Mark Sabbatini at

More in News

A Princess Cruise Line ship is docked in Juneau on Aug. 25, 2021. (Michael Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Ships in Port for the week of Sept. 25

Here’s what to expect this week.

A bracket fungus exudes guttation drops and a small fly appears to sip one of them.( Courtesy Photo / Bob Armstrong)
On the Trails: Water drops on plants

Guttation drops contain not only water but also sugars, proteins, and probably minerals.

Police vehicles gather Wednesday evening near Kaxdigoowu Héen Dei, also known as ]]Brotherhood Bridge Trail, while investigating a homicide. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Police: Woman was walking dogs when she was killed

JPD said officers are working “around the clock” on the criminal investigation.

In this photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, a Coast Guard Cutter Kimball crew-member observes a foreign vessel in the Bering Sea, Monday, Sept. 19, 2022. The U.S. Coast Guard cutter on routine patrol in the Bering Sea came across the guided missile cruiser from the People's Republic of China, officials said Monday, Sept. 26.  (U.S. Coast Guard District 17 via AP)
Patrol spots Chinese, Russian naval ships off Alaska island

This wasn’t the first time Chinese naval ships have sailed near Alaska waters.

An Alaska judge has ruled that a state lawmaker affiliated with the Oath Keepers, Rep. David Eastman, shown in this February 2022 photo, may stay on the general election ballot in November even though he's likely ineligible to hold public office  (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Judge keeps Oath Keepers lawmaker on November ballot

Judge ordered delaying certifying the result of the race until a trial scheduled for December.

Water rushes down Front Street, just a half block from the Bering Sea, in Nome, Alaska, on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022 as the remnants of Typhoon Merbok moved into the region. It was a massive storm system — big enough to cover the mainland U.S. from the Pacific Ocean to Nebraska and from Canada to Texas. It influenced weather systems as far away as California, where a rare late-summer storm dropped rain on the northern part of the state, offering a measure of relief to wildfire crews but also complicating fire suppression efforts because of mud and loosened earth. (AP Photo / Peggy Fagerstrom)
Repair work begins in some Alaska towns slammed by storm

ANCHORAGE — There’s been significant damage to some roads and homes in… Continue reading

Sniffen indicted on sexual abuse counts

Sniffen will be arraigned Monday.

In this undated file photo the Trans-Alaska pipeline and pump station north of Fairbanks, Alaska is shown. (AP Photo / Al Grillo)
Oil price drop endangers plan to fund Alaska schools a year early

If oil prices fall, amount is automatically reduced to an amount the state can afford. At

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Juneau Police Department announces technology and reporting updates

Emergeny services and direct reporting will not be interrupted

Most Read