I’ve been thinking about Pat White’s recent My Turn, Is anyone else concerned about the upcoming cruise season? Pat asks, “Isn’t a million (visitors) enough”? Well, the simple answer is, no.
I too am a longtime resident of Juneau impacted by the summer cruise season traffic. I am also a local business owner grappling with the City and Borough of Juneau’s recent increase of commercial property assessments. If you don’t know, the CBJ, elected to raise commercial property assessments 50% in 2021 without warning. My business pays $295 in property tax to the City of Juneau every day.
Does that seem like a lot? It is.
In addition, I pay business personal property tax, and we are all familiar with the 5% sales tax. These taxes add up to a significant percentage of my expenses and the only way to meet the tax obligation to the city is to pass those costs onto my customers.
Does it sound like I’m complaining? I’m not.
In exchange for the taxes paid I receive the benefits of police and fire protection; both are excellent. I enjoy well-maintained and plowed streets and first-rate sewer and water utilities. I’m thankful for the services our city provides. However, when the Assembly and city manager ignore their responsibility to keep the city budget lean, Juneau quickly becomes unaffordable and leaves the CBJ grasping for additional revenues.
And this brings me back to Pat White’s question, Is a million visitors enough? Unfortunately, the City and Borough of Juneau has baked in revenue needs that requires every business owner, home owner, employee, mother, daughter, son and father in Juneau to grow our community tax base. The CBJ’s budgetary needs are real and growing and like it or not, cruise ship passengers are a key revenue generator for our community. I can’t imagine what my property taxes would be without the cruise ship passengers. Juneau needs miners, fishermen, developers and as many tourists as possible to support the city’s current cost structure. Think about that next time the Assembly approves another $100,000 dollar “study” while lamenting the need for additional revenue or justifying an increase in property taxes. Ask yourself, why is the Assembly spending this money? Is it really necessary? Or could the Assembly make a decision, save the money and move on? As a business owner I am committed to making my business competitive, affordable and everyone’s first choice. But without those additional cruise passengers that simply can’t happen.
• Bruce Abel is president ofDon Abel Building Supply. He has 35 years experience running businesses in Juneau holds a BBA from the University of Alaska and an MBA from Gonzaga University.