The Ketchikan City Council on Thursday approved a seasonal sales tax, but it might not last.
After the Council voted 4-3 in favor of the 1-percent summertime tax, one of the members who voted yes – Bob Sivertsen – asked that the Council reconsider the vote. So, the issue will come back at the next regular meeting.
The Council did vote earlier in the meeting on an amendment that would have changed the seasonal 1-percent tax hike to a year-round half-percent increase. But, that measure failed.
In an interview Friday, Council Member Marty West says she proposed that amendment in response to comments from the public.
“We heard from several people last night talking about what a bookkeeping nightmare that would be,” she said. “Just different logistical things about having to adjust the sales tax in their businesses twice (a year).”
Some members of the public asked the Council to consider more budget cuts before increasing taxes. However, City Mayor Lew Williams III says the current budget is the result of two decades of cuts.
“People who came to the meeting and said cut the budget. Well, we’ve been cutting the budget and doing things to keep us from having to raise taxes for 20 years,” he said. “It comes down to now, if we cut things in the budget, we’re going to be cutting the service levels. With that and some increases in debt service with the library and fire department, we opted for the sales tax.”
Williams says if enough people come back in the fall to say they still want budget cuts, the Council can explore reducing services.
Also Thursday, the Council approved a 4-percent increase in wastewater fees and postponed a water rate increase. West says the delay is at the request of seafood processing companies, which use a lot of water in their operations. Officials with those businesses told the Council that they wanted to come up with a different proposal for the city’s consideration.
The Council also appointed Dick Coose to fill a vacant seat on the Council. Coose was on the Council previously, but lost his bid for re-election in October. The seat will be on the ballot, along with two others, this coming fall.
The next regular City Council meeting is next week. Thursday’s meeting was rescheduled from Jan. 2 because of the New Year’s holiday.