PALMER — Palmer voters approved up to $10 million to rebuild their damaged public library, and a senior property tax exemption got wide support in Mat-Su local elections Tuesday.
Houston voters also rejected a sales tax increase to fund parks.
The three cities in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough — Palmer, Wasilla and Houston — hold elections annually on the first Tuesday of October. Borough-wide elections are held in November at the same time as statewide and national elections.
In Wasilla, where incumbent mayor Glenda Ledford was leading challenger Bernadette Rupright with an early vote count of 266 to 105, 275 votes remained uncounted. Rupright’s husband is former Wasilla mayor Verne Rupright. A city council race between Ian Crafton and incumbent Simon Brown was also too close to call, though Crafton held a significant lead.
In Houston, where 32 ballots had yet to be tallied, Lisa Johansen was narrowly beating incumbent Jay Lowenstein 58 to 54 in a city council contest.
In Palmer, where voters selected two city council candidates from a list of three contenders or a write-in field and the two candidates with the most votes will assume or stay in city council seats, Jim Cooper received 279 votes and incumbents Richard Best and Thomas Ojala received 224 and 178, respectively. That means Cooper will replace Ojala on the city council.
A Palmer bond package that will raise property taxes by 0.135% to fund library reconstruction was approved by a wide margin, 367-94. The public library was destroyed in a mid-February roof collapse caused by a heavy snowpack. No one was injured.
In Houston, a measure that would have funded city parks development by increasing sales tax by 0.05% to 2.5% on all but marijuana and hemp purchases was rejected 89-32.
Houston and Palmer voters also handily approved measures expanding property tax exemptions to senior citizens over 65, disabled veterans and widows of those in either category over age 60.
State law requires municipalities give property tax payers in those categories an exemption on at least the first $150,000 of property value.
A Mat-Su borough law passed by voters last year raises that exemption to $264,000. Voters in Palmer on Tuesday approved extending the city exemption for those groups to $300,000, while in Houston, a similar measure increasing the city’s exemption to match the borough’s $264,000 was also approved.
In Wasilla, incumbent Timothy Johnson ran unopposed for a council seat.
In Houston, Kent Mitchell beat out Dale Lloyd 71-33 for a council seat and incumbent Jeffrey Brasel ran unopposed.
Voter turnout Tuesday sat below 9% in Houston and Wasilla and below 7% in Palmer. Wasilla and Houston are scheduled to certify their results Monday, while Palmer will conduct its certification Tuesday.