Local News

City Council warned of ‘painful’ budget cuts

Now that the election is over, the City of Ketchikan plans to move forward quickly on the Ketchikan Medical Center renovation project.

City Manager Karl Amylon addressed the topic during Thursday’s Ketchikan City Council meeting.

“With Tuesday’s vote on the hospital bond being approved, things are really going to heat up on that project,” he said. “Our intent is to have an RFP out on the street by the end of the month and a recommendation of award no later than the end of the year.”

Voters approved a measure allowing the city to issue up to $43 million in bonds to help pay for the $62 million project.

Amylon also talked a little about the upcoming city budget process, and warned the Council that he will have to cut between $1.4 and $1.8 million from the proposed budgets submitted to him by various departments.

Council Member Bob Sivertsen asked if that meant the city government has grown.

Amylon said expenses have gone up.

“We’ve got added debt payments that I’m obligated to do, so yeah, the cost of government has grown in that context,” he said. “The Council has added cost of living adjustments and extensions of employees’ steps, so next year alone, that will probably be 2.5 percent. There are some insurance considerations that are going to be out of our control. We know that some of our insurance costs are going to go up because of the affordable care act.”

Amylon reminded Council members that they directed him to keep overall spending at the same level, and that’s what he’ll do. But, he said, there will be significant and painful cuts that he doesn’t think the Council will like.

Sivertsen noted that one mill equals about $880,000, and a property tax adjustment might part of the solution.

The Council also unanimously approved a measure setting a sales tax holiday for Oct. 19th, contingent upon approval of a similar measure by the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly.

City Mayor Lew Williams III said he heard from business owners who want it to be reinstated. It has taken place in the past, and earlier this year, the City Council had approved a sales tax holiday. But the Assembly rejected the notion over concerns about funding for local schools.

The Assembly will consider reinstating the tax holiday at its Monday meeting.

The Council also approved a motion awarding a $50,000 contract to master carver Nathan Jackson to carve a replacement for the downtown Thundering Wings totem.

Mayor Williams said the old totem, which is deteriorating, will go to the city museum.

And finally, Amylon reported that the new water treatment plant should receive its approval to operate from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation before the end of the year. But it likely won’t be operational until spring.

A special City Council meeting is set for Monday, starting at 7 p.m. in Council chambers, to certify election results and swear in new Council Member Judy Zenge.

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