Next month, borough voters will be asked to settle three ballot questions. One asks for approval for a new school in Kachemak-Selo, that will cost about $5 million. The state will fund the remaining two-thirds of the project if voters give the ok. The other two deal with the boundaries between the Central and Southern Peninsula Hospital Service Areas.
Former borough assembly member Brent Johnson has been advocating shifting that boundary north since his days on the assembly, but it’s only just now making it on the ballot. He gave a brief history of the topic and a pitch to potential supporters at a meeting of the Kenai and Soldotna Chambers of Commerce Wednesday. He says it’s an issue of fairness.
“In 1969, the borough created two hospital service areas. One centered in Homer and one centered in Soldotna. The common boundary line was drawn at the voter precinct line which happens to run by the White Alice tower in Clam Gulch. That tower was convenient in those days for making the line because it was a voter precinct line. They didn’t have to come up new language to describe the boundary. That voter precinct line no longer exists. That line made the Homer hospital area fatter toward Soldotna than the Soldotna hospital area by 14.5 miles. In 1969, how popular was that line? There were 46 residents (in Ninilchik) who voted in the 1969 election. Forty-three of them voted no, three of them voted yes. So, it wasn’t very popular in 1969 and it’s gotten even worse since then.
“In 1971, a hospital opened in Soldotna and most of the people north of Ninilchik started going there. People are free to go to either hospital, so why should we care? Here’s why: because in 1973, the taxes diverged. The Soldotna hospital mill rate was one mill, Homer’s mill rate was 1.7 mills. That was way back in 1973. Since then, those two numbers have diverged. By 1975, the Soldotna hospital (mill rate) was 0.2 mills. Homer was still at 1.7 mills. Homer’s tax rate was 8 and a half times that of Soldotna. Today, Soldotna’s tax rate is 0.01 mills. Homer’s is 2.3 mills. Homer’s tax rate is 230 times the the tax rate of the Soldotna hospital. And here’s the kicker: for the people who live in this little area between the Clam Gulch tower and the midway point (of Homer and Soldotna), when their family has a medical need, they go to the Soldotna hospital. Why should they pay 230 times the tax to a hospital they don’t go to?”
Regular municipal elections take place on October 2nd.