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Monday, February 19 2018 @ 12:41 AM AKST

Op/Ed: Does Incorporation have anything to do with better roads?

Op-Edby Harry Thompson

From the very start administration costs are 277,344 higher per year to operate the city of Big Lake than the MSB/RSA. The items such as sanding, culvert thawing, sign repair, paved road striping and pothole repairs are removed from the budget to accomplish this. By changing to the city of Big Lake we are removing the requirement to spend all RSA funds on roads and allowing the newly formed city of Big Lake to spend taxes as the Big Lake City Council sees fit.

Some other differences in the MSB/RSA budget and the City of Big Lake budget are as follows:

1) Staff labor and benefits $20,975. These funds are the MSB employees that do the things that are not in the contract such as thawing culverts in the spring, repairing the culverts that get damaged from the road graders, pulling snow from ditches, striping roads that are paved, fixing potholes, crack sealing and lane striping paved roads, fixing damaged street signs and guard rails from accidents.

2) Sand chips, salt, and calcium chloride for dust control the MSB/RSA budget has $110,000 for this, the new city budget only has $11,000.

I don’t know what you think but I feel this is a major part of our winter snow service. Just remember how much rain we got last year, on the snow covered streets, without that sand it would have been a mess.

Per the MSB Attorney, if we change the road and maintenance standards as proposed, the MSB insurance will not cover the city of Big Lake for liability. How much will this insurance cost? Without as much sanding this may be an issue with school buses.

I wonder by lowering our Big Lake city road standard if there is anyone that would benefit? Their low volume road that is not serviced now, because it does not meet MSB standards, and they have to maintain them themselves could later be added to the acceptable road list for service in the future.

3) Revenue. The new City shows $41,000 more in tax revenue than the RSA, but it’s a smaller area so I would think that would be lower than the MSB. This will affect the funds to do improvement projects.

4) The big one: the MSB charges us $220,928 to administer our RSA. This number contains a full time RSA supervisor that tries to make sure the contractor does his job correctly. They also have on call staff and equipment to dispatch for any emergency road issues. The new City will be charging us $492,272 to oversee our road maintenance, but they will only have a city manager and a city clerk. Something tells me getting them out in the middle of the night for an emergency snow event might not happen and who will they call if the contractor cannot be reached?

Per John Moosey, Mat Su Borough Manager:

All taxes are considered levied as of January 1, of the calendar year. However, current year mill rates are not known until the budget is set in May. Once the budget and related mill rates are adopted we prepare billings and mail according to State Statue “no earlier than June 30 and no later than July 1” of the calendar year. Per Borough code tax payments are due August 15th but the taxpayer can elect to pay one half August 15 and the remaining one half February 15 of the subsequent year.

So yes there is a lag between when taxes are levied and when paid, as well as a lag between collection of taxes and disbursement of funds for services.

Funds for the existing RSA may be transferred to the new City of Big Lake, however they were collected for road service work and can only be spent for that effort.

John Moosey

MSB Manager

So another big problem is the new City will need to immediately borrow money to operate, but is that stated anyplace? NO. I don’t see authorization to borrow money using our property taxes as collateral on the ballot, do you? I do not see any authorization to bond or go into indebtedness on this ballot, do you?

The biggest problem is a lot of things are not fully thought out or we are not being told the whole story? Maybe they only want to tell us what they think we need to hear to convince us to vote for this mess? Remember their meetings are not a debate they are the information that they feel we need to hear. They even say that!

I keep hearing get the facts before you make a decision. How about giving us the facts so we can make the decision! The information has been very hard to find.

The first fancy flyers said “taxes can’t go up without a vote”. Can’t find any of those flyers anymore because it came out it was not true. Then they said it can only go up a modest 2%. Hello that’s 20mills on my property value on top of what the MSB is charging us.

Then they wanted the city council to sign a pledge to not raise taxes. Now it comes out that is not binding and we all know they will need to raise taxes.

The real deal is they want a government, no matter what they have to say to get it, that will eventually have the power of planning and zoning, so they can start telling us how we can build and what we can do with our property. Those can be good things, but hiding what the real intent is and trying to say it won’t cost us anything to get there when they know it will, is politics as usual and I’m not on board!

Harry Thompson

Big Lake Resident

[Editors Note: The full proposed budget in *.PDF format included with Mr. Thompson's piece is Here]

Views expressed in Op/Ed pieces or comments belong to the person writing them, and may not necessarily reflect the views of The Big Lake Times. Equal time and space is given to counter-arguments and opposing views.

See this topic for related articles and discussions about the Incorporation of Big Lake.

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Op/Ed: Does Incorporation have anything to do with better roads? | 7 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Op/Ed: Does Incorporation have anything to do with better roads?
Authored by: Shannon on Saturday, September 26 2015 @ 01:26 PM AKDT
GREAT story. Thanks!
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Op/Ed: Does Incorporation have anything to do with better roads?
Authored by: Nate on Saturday, September 26 2015 @ 01:31 PM AKDT
This gives me reason to pause and think.
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Op/Ed: Does Incorporation have anything to do with better roads?
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, September 26 2015 @ 05:43 PM AKDT
Mr. Thompson's leg work is to be commended.
Exposing facts that have time and again been kept form the view of Big Lake residents by a small group of individuals whom profess to have our best interest in mind is of interest to all of us.
The delusional assumption that the monies to fund this adventure will come from thin air is insulting to all of us.
Increasing the mill rate as well as the tax base will affect all of us. Yes. Sales tax. A sales tax will not only affect our businesses but will effect all of us as well.
Big Lake, our home is a very attractive community as it is. full of character as a true Alaskan town should be. And that is all of us!

Clearly this group of small individuals, not all from Big Lake are not interested in the betterment of our community as a whole but only concerned with self gain.

Follow the money you'll find the answer
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Op/Ed: Does Incorporation have anything to do with better roads?
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, September 30 2015 @ 01:42 PM AKDT
It's the backers of the "No" vote that are the outsiders. Look at who is paying for it.

Follow the money, indeed.
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Op/Ed: Does Incorporation have anything to do with better roads?
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, September 26 2015 @ 09:21 PM AKDT
With regards to the new City of Big Lake proposed operating budget I would like to offer the following. Individuals with financial expertise gathered on behalf of the lead petitioners and worked directly with the Local Boundary Commission (LBC) to address the financial portion contained within the overall application to become a second class city. The initial application contained what the financial group felt was a realistic budget for a city taking on very limited powers and budgeted amounts that equated to part time positions. The Local Boundary Commission sent our initial proposed operating budget back several time and required we add additional costs in order to reflect what it might cost if the newly formed city was required to fill each position with full time employees. The results of our compliance with the LBC’s request to increase our operating expenses, to what was considered “worst case scenario”, was that we had added over $100,000 of additional costs that none of the financial group members believed would be required to run a small city government. The LBC required the petitioner to take an extremely conservative approach on the expense side of the operating budget in order to make certain the proposed city had sufficient funds to meet its future obligations. While the LBC’s approach has merit with regards to conservative financial planning…the financial group which worked on the accepted budget believes the proposed budget is extremely conservative and inflated throughout. I submit this is NOT the City of Big Lake’s actual budget. This was an exercise required by the LBC to prove financial sustainability. The actual budget will be developed by the newly elected city council and prior to adoption of the operating budget ordinance, 2 public hearings are required to provide for public testimony. The hardest challenge we’ll all face is to build something from nothing. Clearly there are sufficient funds to run a small conservative government. Will the voters of Big Lake take the easy path of doing nothing and require others to plot our future, or will we take the harder course to accept the responsibly to plot our own future? It’s up to us.
Bill Kramer
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Op/Ed: Does Incorporation have anything to do with better roads?
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, September 30 2015 @ 01:39 PM AKDT
Thank you for posting that clarification Bill. I think there's a lot of misinformation and outright lies swirling around this.
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Op/Ed: Does Incorporation have anything to do with better roads?
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, September 29 2015 @ 05:50 PM AKDT
I don't appreciate being lied to. It's disappointing.
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