There aren’t too many degrees of separation between the two candidates in terms of their vision for the future of Soldotna. Both are interested in promoting tourism and local business growth and both see the City and as playing an important role in that promotion. Carey, a former three term mayor of Soldotna and a one term Borough mayor had positive things to say about his predecessor, now-state Senator Peter Micciche, but, Carey says his main concern is with the city’s finances.
“If (the City) is indeed going to keep taking in more money each year than they’re going to spend, I’d like to see, I’d like to see a clear statement of what it’s committed to, or I’d like to see a reduction in the surplus,” Carey said.
For fiscal year 2012, the city did take in about a million more dollars than it spent, ending with a balance of 20.2 million dollars in the general fund. Those numbers follow a recent decrease in the property tax or mill rate for residents. Carey says the city should look at lowering that rate even more or eliminating property taxes all together. His opponent, current council member Dr. Nels Anderson isn’t so sure. He says with a good chunk of the city’s revenue coming from state and federal grants that may not always be there, there’s a need for local contributions to pay for municipal projects.
“I think we oughta have a skin in the game and property taxes, even at very low rates, keep people involved in the game. We all want to keep taxes as low as possible. It’s a question of what are our prospects for the future,” Anderson said.
Anderson, whose public service also includes 15 years on the School Board before he began his current term on the Council, says some of that budget surplus is spoken for by deferred maintenance projects for things like roof repairs to the Soldotna Sports Complex. Both agreed that that facility would be a focal point in realizing the city’s Envision Soldotna 2030 plan.
“There needs to be some additions to the Sports Center. There are some issues with being right outside a hockey locker room and going to a facility where a little more uppity-up activities may be going on than the locker room of a hockey team,” Carey said.
“If we’re going to really turn that into a center that would be useful for those things, we’re going to have to make some big additions. I personally favor that. But any major additions are going to go to the voters first. The voters are going to make that decision,” Anderson said.
Beyond that, both candidates offered support for expanding funding in the city’s Storefront Improvement Program, which is designed to give local businesses small loans to help with design and engineering costs associated with sprucing up their facilities.
Anderson and Carey made their comments on Wednesday’s edition of the Coffee Table program that aired on KDLL. Voters will be able to cast their ballots at Soldotna City Hall Tuesday from 7 am to 8 pm.