KPB Assembly Districts 4 and 7 preview
We are wrapping up KDLL’s pre-election coverage with a look at the candidates for Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly Seats 4 and 7.
In District 4, Soldotna, incumbent Dale Bagley cannot run again due to term limits, and there are two candidates running to replace him: Tyson Cox and Rose Henry.
Cox, a current Soldotna City Council member, is a property manager and former school teacher. Henry is a pharmacist at Fred Meyer.
In District 7, the Central area south of Soldotna, two candidates are also vying to replace longtime incumbent Paul Fischer: Brent Johnson and Holly Odd.
Johnson, a former borough assembly member, was born in Seldovia and is a commercial fisherman. Odd is a retired airline flight attendant.
All four candidates were invited to the KDLL studios for last week’s Kenai Conversation. District 7’s Odd never responded to KDLL’s messages, while District 4’s Henry sought to schedule a recorded interview, something she did not follow up on.
As a result, we have the positions of one candidate each from District 4 and District 7, Tyson Cox and Brent Johnson, respectively. But remember, they are not running against each other.
With the drama surrounding school funding each year and this month’s last-minute prevention of a teachers strike I asked the candidates about school funding. Johnson answered first, followed by Cox whose worries extend into finding future hires.
JOHNSON: “One of the things that has bothered me over the last couple years, it's like Tyson says, the’s been teachers have been working for a long time without a contract. And when I was on the assembly, there was a lot of wringing of hands and turmoil over getting the contract signed back then. And I just think that there should reduce the animosity that exists over signing contracts and all getting on the same page. I just think that we should be able to say, ‘Hey, we have a common goal here, here’s how much money we have, let’s figure out how to make this happen.’”
COX: “How are we attracting people not just within our state? Because we don't we can't even attract them from other districts? How are we attracting people from some of these other states to come up? Now with that being said, the one saving grace we have is we have a lot of good teachers in our system. And they're good, and they're here, but it's because I love to be here. But we need to attract more to continue to have that going on because at some point, these teachers are going to retire.”
We also talked about taxes in general and Proposition 2 in particular. Again, Johnson and then Cox.
JOHNSON: “So I look at it this way, we pay a mil tax. And that is always been adjusted for inflation, the value of your home is being adjusted by, automatically, the condition of your home and the value of other homes that are like it. So it's always been adjusted. And in general, those numbers have gone up over the years. And yet we raised the mill rate recently. Keep that in mind. Now, sales tax that also gets adjusted for inflation. The price of goods goes up, and so you pay a higher tax. When you have to pay twice as much for a soda pop as you did when I was in high school or whatever the number is, I think it's probably four times as much, that number goes up. But the sales tax cap didn't go up since it was first initiated in 1965, it stayed the same. So why shouldn't it go up some? And that would help us hold the mill rate down? Basically, those are the numbers that I'm looking at.”
COX: “I've been very open that I will be voting yes on on that proposition. And I do not think it's the most effective in what if we were looking at creating revenue. But I do think it's adequate. And why I say that is is we're looking at about a $4.7 million deficit in the budget this year. With internet sales, because we are getting those from Amazon now, it's projected at about $3 million, which leaves us with about $1.7 million. Now the projections for this Prop two, I believe I read was $3.4 million. I personally believe that's high. And I do I believe that's high because in Soldotna we get most of our revenue from Fred Meyer (that's) is our biggest revenue source. And it's not from anything over $500. It's from those $1 to $200 sales that happen frequently. So I don't see that increasing as much as as it's being projected. But if we can still hit between that $1.5 million and $2 million, I think it will be sufficient to get us to a even budget.”
Finally, we discussed the debate over service area elections that stemmed from the recommendation by the Election Stakeholders Committee, which Cox was a member.
COX: “The service areas that aren't getting people to turn out, that they're appointing anyways, or ones that decide to say, ‘Hey, this is what we'd rather go to,’ can, and then the ones that would still like to be elected — because I know Nikiski was very strong about still wanting to be elected — would have that ability to do so. So I think that answers it.”
JOHNSON: “Yeah, and my idea on it would be to set a date ahead of time where that the service area people could present candidates. If they have more than one candidates then let's have an election, but if you don’t, let's not. So just do it a little bit earlier.”
Brent Johnson is candidate for Borough Assembly Seat 7, the Central District, and Tyson Cox is candidate for Borough Assembly Seat 4, Soldotna. They appeared together on last week’s Kenai Conversation, though they are running for separate seats. Their opponents were invited but chose not to appear.