A brand new nonprofit, the Denali Local Retailers Inc., has formed to oppose a proposed tax on alcohol and marijuana in the Denali Borough.
At its meeting on Sept. 11 the Denali Borough Assembly will consider either a 5% tax on alcohol and marijuana or a 1% increase to the accommodations tax, which is currently 7%.
If one of those options is chosen, it will go on the November ballot for voters’ final say. The new group wants to keep the proposal off the ballot.
To date, about 10 people, and the Denali Chamber of Commerce have officially testified or written letters opposing the proposed tax on alcohol and marijuana.
The Interior Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association provided administrative start-up costs for the new nonprofit. The organization also paid for a flyer opposing the proposed tax to be delivered to every post office box in the borough. The organization was not listed on the card.
Organizer Dave Coleman, a local business owner, said that was merely an oversight
“We’re just trying to get our message out,” Coleman said. He operates vacation rentals and The Great 1 Grocery and Sled Dog Liquor.
“We’re just frustrated,” he said. “We’re being singled out and they have not demonstrated a specific need.”
Both ordinances list this as their purpose: to “raise revenue and diversify the borough’s revenue stream with the intention to support local emergency service providers, volunteer fire departments, municipal assistance and other local nonprofit organizations.”
Municipalities cannot dedicate funds to specific purposes, but they can indicate where they intend the funds to go.
Mayor Clay Walker proposed the tax initially and he is not surprised at the backlash.
“I knew this wasn’t going to be easy,” he said. “I’m the first mayor in 24 years to propose a tax ordinance. I knew I would be lambasted along the way. I went into it with eyes open and ready for it.”
The intent of the ordinance, he said, is to prepare for the future, due to declining revenues from the state.
“The discussion we’re having as a community about how we want to be prepared for the years ahead is an important one,” he said. “I do encourage people to go to the website and look at the powerpoint I prepared on the need and how things are changing and how it affects the borough.”
The borough website is www.denaliborough.org.
Denali Local Retailers Inc. is so new, it hasn’t had a chance to enroll members yet. That’s because organizers are busy business people, especially during the short summer season, Coleman said. It is hard to do business in Denali and a proposed tax just makes it harder, he added.
“Our mission is to organize for the purpose of giving out information about doing business in Denali,” Coleman said. “It’s a different voice. A non-profit voice. We formed this to have a voice.”
Any proposed tax must be approved by voters in the Denali Borough.
“Our goal is to keep it off the ballot,” Coleman said. “We are going to fight this.”
Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at email@example.com. Call her at the office 459-7546. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.