Sunday, May 12, 2013

And the Winners Are...

The Peoples' Choice for the Private Sector Energy Project was the George Figdor submission: Conversion of a Diesel Rabbit to an Electric Car and the Off-Grid Wind-Solar Home.

Many thanks to all the other entrants: Betty Holgate for her weatherization project, Shane Horton for his chip-fired boiler, Diane Lapham for her pellet-fired boiler, Scott Hansen for his hydro heated and lit greenhouse, Jim Jurgeleit for his geo-thermal heat system, and Mark Fontenot for his direct feed, wind/solar heat plant for his work shop.

You are all energy efficiency, renewable energy pioneers, leading the way to self-sufficiency and energy independence in the Chilkat Valley.  Thank you so much for your submissions.

Download the complete description of each project from the Haines Borough website.

The Peoples' Choice for the Public Sector Energy Project goes to the collaboration between the Haines Borough School District, Seven Echoes Homestead, and the Alaska Arts Confluence for the development of the Small-Scale, Green Living Building Construction course, taught by Ed Hays, Career Technical Education Instructor.

Many thanks to all the entrants from the public sector including the Chilkoot Indian Association, the Haines Senior Center Inc., the Haines Borough,  and Haines Friends of Recycling.  As with the private projects, the public projects are described in detail in the document that can be downloaded from the Haines Borough website.

There's no time to waste! Our energy dollars do not have to fly out the window or float down the canal. Let's continue to work on ways to conserve and to access renewable energy available right here in the Chilkat Valley.  Curious as to how you might proceed? Consult one of our many local experts!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Common $ense Energy Projects - Earth Day, 2013

We have an Earth Day celebration scheduled for May 11 here in Haines.  It will be a festive affair with all kinds of educational displays and interactive opportunities.  One of those opportunities will be to vote for "The People's Choice" from the  conservation, efficiency, and renewable energy projects submitted for the 2013 Mayor's Energy Award.  There are 7 private sector projects and 5 public sector projects (tribal and municipal government and non-profit organizations).  The "People's Choice" in each category will be awarded a certificate and a $50 check! 

Here are the titles and some photos of the projects.  Coming soon to  the Haines Borough website -- extensive and informative narratives of each project! 
In Memorium, "The Dragon," Chip-Fired Boiler, Shane Horton

Wind-Solar Heat System, Mark Fontenot
Electric Car, George Figdor
Senior Center Pellet Boiler and Weatherization Project, Senior Center, Inc., Southeast Senior Services, Haines Borough
Bill Aronson Memorial Scholarship for the Study of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Technology, Haines Friends of Recycling Inc.

Hydro Power to Extend Greenhouse Growing Season, Scott Hansen
Off-the-Grid Solar/Wind Power System, George Figdor
Green-Living Building Construction Course, Haines Borough School District, Seven Ecohoes Homestead, and Alaska Arts Confluence

Weatherization, Efficiency Project, Betty Holgate
Home Pellet-fired Boiler, Pete Lapham
Biomass for Heat, Weatherization for Conservation, Pellet Manufacturing for Local Energy,

 Chilkoot Indian Association
Haines Senior Village Boiler Efficiency and Weatherization  Project, Haines Senior Center Inc.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Lemonade Day is Coming!

Lemonade Day is May 11! 

Register here.

Backpacks should be available for registrants at the Haines Borough Administration building by the end of this week, according to Lemonade Day Alaska state coordinator Johanna Golden.

Last year 2,536 kids from all over Alaska participated. Altogether they brought in a whopping $287,000 and donated $68,000 to charity. Amazing!

The average stand made a $76 profit.

Check out the Alaskan  stats.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Assessment Information Now Available on Borough Website

Click here to go to the new page on the Haines Borough website for information on tax assessment.  Thanks to staff for getting this "up" so quickly.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Assessment Notice Is Not a Tax Bill

I think most of know this but it's good to be reminded.  Taxes, the actual amount of money you will pay, depends on the mil rate set to raise the revenue needed to provide government services: education, fire protection, ambulance, police, roads, snow plowing, ports, harbors, pool, elections, visitor services, library, musuem, facilities maintenance...and yes, tax assessment.  The mil rate in turn depends on the amount of local revenue needed to provide the services.  It can only be set AFTER the Assembly examines the budget and understands the revenue projections.

So please participate, along with the Assembly and the borough staff, in the budget process.  Here is the schedule of budget meetings.  Prior to the actual legal introduction of the budget ordinance at a formal meeting, the Assembly meets as a Committee of the Whole, called affectionately, a "COW." These are informal sessions where we attempt to understand the Manager's proposal and to provide feedback. Remember, until the budget is adopted by the Assembly and becomes "our" budget, it is "the Manager's budget."  It is his job to prepare and present it to the Assembly.

All meetings will take place in the Assembly Chambers at the Public Safety Building.

Tuesday, 4/9/13, 4:30 PM: COW topics include: Budget Introduction, General Fund Overview, Revenues, Fund Balances, Economic Trends, Allocated Expense, School District, Library, and Museum.

Tuesday, 4/16/13, 5:30 PM: COW topics include: Public Wordks, Public Facilities, Solid Waste, Sinking Funds, Ports/Harbors, Capital Projects, Road Maintenance Service Areas, Parks, Community Youth Development, Pool, Fire Service Areas, Medical Service (Ambulance/Mental Health), Water, Sewer.

Tuesday, 4/23/13, 4:30 PM: COW topics include: Administration, Assembly, Elections, Finance, Assessment, Information Technology, Lands, Chilkat Center, Economic Development/Tourism, Debt Service Funds, Dispatch, Police, Animal Control, Passenger Vessel Tax Funds.

Tuesday, 4/23/13, 6:30 PM: Introduction of Budget Ordinance at regular meeting. These meetings begin the process of formal alterations to the budget the Manager has development.  Amendments may be proposed and adopted throughout these next meetings, but the budget can be amended ONLY through a formal process.

Tuesday, 5/14/13, 6:30 PM: First Public Hearing of the Budget Ordinance

Tuesday, 5/28/13, 6:30 PM: Second Public Hearing of the Budget Ordinance. The budget may be adopted at this meeting or it may be set for a third public hearing before adoption.

Tuesday, 6/11/13, 6:30 PM: Third Public Hearing (if needed).

2013 Real Property Assessments

We have all received our 2013 real property assessments. And now we have to understand how the numbers were generated.  Like you, I could have been better prepared for the changes and thus, minimized my surprise. But unlike you, it is nominally my "job" to help keep you informed.  I am very sorry. 

To catch up, let's start with the contracted assessor himself, James Canary.  Mr. Canary responded quickly to yesterday's request for explanation:

To: Mayor Stephanie Scott;  Assembly Members
First of all thank you for the opportunity to be the Haines Borough Assessor and to allow me time to explain my methodology for assessed values for the Haines Borough.

As you are probably aware Alaska Assessment Services was asked to come in and help the Haines Borough with assessments for the tax year 2013. This was after an audit by the State Assessor was conducted.  My job was to help establish equity within the Borough and to bring assessments up to their full and true value as of January 1, 2013 based on Alaska State Statute, Title 29, Section 49.110, Full & True Value.

Background: Having knowledge of the Haines area as a real estate appraiser for over 17 years and as an Assessor for Juneau, Petersburg and Pelican along with working within the assessment system in Ketchikan, Craig, Petersburg and Juneau since 1984, I’m pretty familiar with the State of Alaska, Title 29, Section 49 and the assessment process.  Please understand, none of my confidential private Real Estate Appraisal information was used within the valuation process for the Haines Borough 2013 Assessment process.

Research:  After taking the job as the Haines Assessor in January 2013, my first course of action was to see what sales information the Haines Borough had collected.  I was pleasantly surprised to find some good sales data has been collected over the past number of years. I started out analyzing the last 3 years of sales data collected.  Of the sales data collected there were 236 Deed Title Changes with 126 Confirmed sales prices obtained (53% collection rate).   

Analysis: My second course of action was to analyze each and every confirmed sale and breakdown the difference between land and building for each sale. In some cases a site visit and questions to the buyer were needed to gather additional information.  I’d like to extend my appreciation to all that were willing to give me additional information, it really did help.  As most citizens in Haines are aware this job was very difficult as there are many different market areas in Haines and each was weighted on its own merit based on the sales obtained.  My analysis extracted raw land values by  location, density, upland vs. waterfront adjustments, view adjustments, topography adjustments, site development and other adjustments where noted.

Findings from the Sales Analysis:   What became evident from researching vacant (unimproved) sales and then improved sales (Buildings & Land), the difference was minimal with additional value given to improved sites for the driveway, site pad, water, sewer, electricity and telephone.  For developed properties with all of the above an adjustment of $20,000 was extracted from the sales on average.  While $20,000 is probably low for actual cost to develop a site an average was run for each and every parcel at this time minus some of these features resulted in a lower site development adjustment (Example: no roadway access, no power, etc).  This adjustment was on top of the raw land value given to each and every parcel within a specific location.  View adjustments were made at $10,000 for filtered views and $20,000 for good views this again was an average and run consistently throughout the Haines Borough.  Sites were run at a specific unimproved land value and then adjusted for density, size, view, topography, other adjustments along with the site development adjustment. I also researched the cost approach for buildings for each and every sale and found that some clean up still is required before implementing the cost approach across the board for the Haines area. Overall no change was made to the building cost as the prior costs were close to the new updated cost and local multiplier derived.

Applying Assessed Values for each parcel:  After the market analysis was concluded, I set up an excel spreadsheet and went through each and every market area based on the sales obtained, made the adjustments appropriate to the specific location, then went back and double and triple checked the numbers verses the sales. From the final draft an audit with the help of Dean Olsen was done and corrections were made as needed.

In Conclusion:  After the research, analysis and implementation of the 2013 Assessed values for the Haines Borough were completed the final verdict was that the Haines Borough Assessed Values had gone from a 85% sales ratio (Assessed  Value/Sales Price) in 2012 to a 98% sales ratio in 2013 with a total Assessed value increase of 18% overall.  I understand as a tax payer this increase is hard to swallow, but my job as the Assessor is to assess each and every property at full and true value as of January 1, 2013.

Let me field a couple of questions received so far:
1)     What if I feel my property is not assessed enough?   Answer you can also appeal to have your value raised.
2)     What if I feel I could not sell my property for what it is assessed at?  Answer is to appeal your assessment and allow the Assessor or staff to do a full inspection of the property.  If there is a reason to change it we will.
3)     What if my neighbors are assessed with different value methods?  Answer:  this can happen, but mostly in the downtown area where different zonings are taken into account or the neighboring properties are much larger than the parcel in question (Density: low, medium, high).  Let me clarify further:  Some areas of the downtown sold at different rates because of zoning, actual use or lot size.  Example a raw commercial lot in the downtown area sold for $3.00/SF and a residential house on a commercial zoned lot sold for $1.03/SF (side by side). The residential home sale on a commercial lot sold similar to a residential zoned home up the street.  In appraisal methodology a residential property in a commercial zoned area has an external loss either in the land or improvements.  I determined the land value should suffer the loss, each lot in a commercial zoned area in the downtown area is run at least $3/SF up to $10/SF.  A residential property in a commercial zoned area is run at $3.00/SF with a market adjustment (external loss) which brings the final land value to $1.03/SF before the other adjustments are applied (location, density, waterfront or upland, view, topography, other, and site development).  If on the other hand a lot is over let’s say half an acre and based on sales indicated a per acre basis should be applied then it was (residential zoning and residential lot).  (Half an acre is only an example, the valuation is based on the sales within the area in question)
4)      I live out the road and my lot is valued higher per acre than my neighbor?  Answer:  Out the road everybody within the area is run at the same per acre basis, but lots are adjusted based on size.  Based on the market sales size adjustments were required.  Example:  a 5 acre lot should sell for more per acre as compared to the neighboring lot of 50 acres.
5)     My lot is an upland lot, was it run the same as the waterfront lot below?   Answer: No, ocean waterfront, lakefront and riverfront properties were run at a different valuation, based on their sales for the area or a similar area.
6)     While I can’t disagree with the current market assessed value, I don’t like the fact I’m going to have to pay more taxes.  Answer: The Assessor is charged with full and true value determination as of the 1st of each year.  Taxes are assessed by the millage rate which is adopted by the Haines Borough.  This can go up or down depending on the budget set by the assembly.
7)     How can you justify increasing my assessment by more than 20% in one year?  Answer:  Your assessment was based on prior sales data for your area.  Now if you are having problems with your house or lot (rot, settlement, ants, erosion, etc.), appeal your assessment, the Assessor may not know about these issues.  An appeal gives the property owner the chance for the Assessor to take another look at the property.  That doesn’t mean that the Assessor will change the value.  If not satisfied the appellant can go to the board of equalization for a final hearing. 

I hope this sheds some light to the current 2013 Assessed Values for the Haines Borough.  If you have any further questions please ask.

James W. Canary, Assessor
I have some more questions that I have posed to the state assessor, Steve Van Sant today.  Please check back and I will post his responses as soon as I receive them.  Meanwhile, KHNS News Director Margaret Friedenauer also engaged Mr. Van Sant.  This is his response, received today,  to her inquiries:
There have been no changes in the state assessment laws in years with the exception of various exemptions that have been added.

Based upon our experience with the Haines Borough and the increases that residents have seen this year, the primary reason behind the increases is most likely the assessor attempting to catch up to the market.

State law requires municipalities to assess property at 100% of market value.  This has been the assessment standard for many years and it has not changed.  In our latest audit of the Haines assessments we noted that assessments appeared to be inequitable and many needed to be updated with current values as that did not appear to have been done in many years.  The 18 page report lists several areas that needed to be addressed and the borough is attempting to make needed corrections.

The Borough hired Mr. James Canary to get its values completed and assessment notices mailed out this year and Mr. Canary attempted to get most of the land values in equity and up to market value. He informed my office that he rebuilt the valuation models and tried to get most, if not all, properties valued in this fashion helping to assure more equity in the process.

Anytime a city or borough goes through a re-evaluation process values will usually increase and hopefully produce a more uniform assessment roll.

But the answer to your direct question is that the standard for assessments, market value, has not changed.
I note Mr. Van Sant's reference to an "18 page report."  I know I have seen that report but I need to see it again.  It may help give some context to our situation.  I will ask the Clerk to post it under key documents on the Borough website.  

Monday, March 4, 2013

Day Boat ACF Comment Period Extended by State

Deputy Commissioner Yost reports that time has been extended for comment on the Design Concept Report for the Day Boat Alaska Class Ferry (Day Boat ACF).  For details, see the email that I received today:
Hello Mayor Scott,

We have just posted a link on the AMHS website, under News & Updates/Alaska Class Ferry/Submit a Comment.

The link is:

We will also post a link on the DOT&PF homepage to direct folks to the ACF comment link.  The comment page explains that any comments addressing potential factual errors (e.g. route lengths, speed time calculations) should be submitted by March 15, 2013 (we have added a week to the March 8 date due to the delay in getting the comment link working).  The page also explains that while comments are welcome throughout the project’s development, general comments or questions on the concepts in the DCR should be submitted by March 29, 2013 in order to be used in development of the Design Study Report (DSR).  This will give the public ample opportunity to comment on the DCR before we move forward.  The consultant design team will evaluate the DCR and begin some of the analysis required to address issues already identified, but the DSR will be delayed until the latter part of April.
I appreciate the extension and will certainly say so tomorrow during testimony to the Joint House and Senate Transportation Committee public hearings on the Design Concept Report.  Please join us at the Haines Borough Public Library, 1:30, where we will watch the proceedings and testify in turn. It will be helpful to hear from others across the region if not the state.

There is a feeling called "deja vu" - when you sense that you have done this before.  I feel like we are repeating the experience the DOT had with the first Alaska Class Ferry design.  They went to the public and after 4 years of process, the design "morphed" into a vessel suitable for the route and suitable for the passengers on the route.  DOT has determined that the morphed vessel was a mistake; maybe so, but I worry about the alternative: clam-shell bow doors, open aft deck, fewer seats than passengers, no direct route from Skagway to Juneau, vending machines, an assumption that the vessels run "half empty" in the winter, no unaccompanied vehicles, and nothing if a $20 million terminal is not built... . I see lost revenue, even danger, and a plan that may be penny wise and pound foolish.  I see vessels designed to serve a system laced with yet unbuilt roads; and vessels that seem more suited to Puget Sound than to the upper Lynn Canal.  The original ACF was designed to serve the whole system, Skagway to Prince Rupert. Let's get back to it.