Publisher’s note: As we do ahead of each local election, KDM gives candidates the opportunity to present information about themselves directly to our print and digital readers ahead of the Oct. 5 election. We reserve the right to edit for length, style and clarity.
Candidate: Scott Smiley
Office: Kodiak Island Borough Assembly
Please provide a brief introduction about yourself: My name is Scott Smiley. I am a retired biology professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. For 11 years, I was a professor and director at a university function on Near Island in Kodiak formerly called the Fishery Industrial Technology Center and now called the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center.
My wife, Kerry Irons, recently retired as principal at North Star Elementary School. We have one son who now lives in Portland and works as a software engineer. We have lived in Kodiak for the past 25 years, but my history in Kodiak goes back to the summer of 1974. I came here on the ferry.
There was a sign as we got off the ferry that said something like April 15 to October 15, no studs or chains, and to this a local wag had penned in or whips. At the time I thought it showed the community had a sense of humor; I still feel that way.
Why are you running for this office? I have served one three-year term on the Assembly and after two years dealing with some personal issues I am now running for a second term. I am seeking election to the Assembly because I believe my experience and my training can contribute to the community and to the Borough, and being retired I can afford the time.
I have three goals for my tenure as an Assembly member should I be elected. Here I have been guided by conversations with constituents.
What do you see as the biggest priorities facing the Borough? The biggest problem facing the Borough is funding. The State of Alaska has significantly reduced their contributions to our Borough, and the State Legislature has not yet found a way to help fill the budgetary hole that oil used to provide. Obvious candidates include an income tax predicated on a fraction of the federal income tax and a state sales tax. Since many Alaskan municipalities already use a sales tax and do not employ an income tax, the path forward seems clear. We need to convince the legislature to fix the hole left by oil.
Second: We must streamline our Borough Code. We need to be able to enforce the requirements of our code, allowing repeated violators to be ticketed. Unlike the Federal Government, cities and boroughs cannot depend upon deficit spending. By law, our books must balance. Much of the borough’s income comes from property tax.
Of significant concern to many are the senior and disabled veteran dispensations from that tax. Means testing for such dispensations would allay some of the concerns while promoting greater fairness. However, property tax dispensations are not derived from Borough code and changing them will require action by the State Legislature. The varied rules and exceptions in Borough codes for taxation is another issue of concern to many. Some property has been taxed, some not and tax rates can vary. The Borough Assembly must address these concerns fairly.
Thirdly: The Borough has a number of fiduciary responsibilities. Among these is significant financial support for the Kodiak Island Borough School District. We have one of the best school systems in Alaska, and we need to keep it that way by contributing our fair share. The Borough is titleholder for multiple buildings, including all those of the School District. As such, the Borough is responsible for repair and renewal of these buildings.
Given the state’s funding problems over the past few years we have used resources previously designated for repair and renewal to support other projects. This places the R&R burden on our children and cannot be sustained. At some point such repairs will no longer be cost effective and we will have to build new facilities. Currently we need more than $4M for renovating and repairing the roofs at Main and Peterson elementary schools.
How do you view the issue of city-borough consolidation? After some study, I prefer the annexation of Service District 1 by the City of Kodiak to a plan for consolidation of the various governments in the Kodiak Island Borough.