Homer residents headed to polls Tuesday in a special election to decide whether the city should build a new $7.5 million police station. The city is asking Homer residents to pay for $5 million of the project via a .35-percent sales tax increase.
As voters left the polls Tuesday afternoon, several who voted both for and against a new police station expressed concern about the overall cost and the tax increase that would accompany the new building.
Homer resident Toby Wheeler, who voted in favor of a new station, said he’s fine with the building’s cost, but he said it’s the tax increase that gave him some pause.
“I think they worked pretty hard on getting the price down. So, I feel pretty confident about that,” Wheeler explained. “It’s just the fact the we have pretty high sales tax and our mill rate is fairly high too. I have some concerns about that.”
The city estimates that the $5 million price tag it’s asking voters to pay for would be paid off before the end 20-year term of the bond. Some of the tax increase, .05 percent, would pay for increased maintenance costs and would remain on the books after the rest of the tax sunsets.
Despite his concern about higher taxes, Wheeler said the need for a new police station pushed him to vote yes. The very same concern motivated others to vote no. Loreta Miller was one of those voters.
“Alaska is an expensive place to live. I understand that the facility that they’re in right now is not great, but at the same time, $7 million is a lot of money,” she said. “I’m hoping that they can go back to the drawing board and find a cheaper way or somewhere else to get the money from instead of us.”
Still, others such as David Lefton said they were fine with the city’s proposal.
“I think it’s ridiculous that we’ve had a police station for this long that doesn’t meet the needs of our population,” he said. “We pay taxes for a reason, so that we can have new things and public services.”
As of 5:00 p.m., roughly 480 voters cast ballots at the polls. About 175 absentee ballots were cast by Monday afternoon, far below the roughly 750 absentee ballots cast in last year’s divisive recall election.
With just three hours to go, 655 votes have been cast in all, a 14 percent turnout.
Electronic absentee ballots are due when the polls close at 8 p.m. Mail-in absentee votes must be postmarked on Tuesday and arrive at city hall before the canvass board certifies the election results Friday afternoon.
Both voting locations will remain open until 8 p.m. tonight. KBBI will report out the preliminary results on KBBI.org and on social media.