Library4The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly voted to cut its share of funding for the city-owned Ketchikan Public Library. In 2010 city voters approved spending up to $5.2 million for the facility. Because Borough residents were not allowed to vote on the issue, who should pay for services has been sometimes controversial.

The assembly eliminated the 0.7 mill non-area-wide property tax during budget discussions Monday (June 2). The money generated from that tax, more than $405,000, is deposited in the city’s general fund and helps support the Ketchikan Public Library.

Assembly member Glen Thompson proposed the amendment.

“Folks outside the city did not have any input on the library, did not have any control over any of its funding, and are now paying an additional half percent in sales taxes. This 0.7 mills winds up being a double dip and I think it’s inappropriate and I think we should delete the whole program.”

Asked if the Borough is under any legal obligation to provide the funds next fiscal year, Borough Attorney Scott Brandt-Erichsen said no. He says an agreement between the city and borough is renewed on an annual basis, and that agreement expires at the end of the fiscal year.

Assembly member Bill Rotecki says he would like to see the City and Borough work together.

“But I think it could be done through more serious discussion than we’ve had in the past. Alternatively, and far more logically, since everyone in the borough uses the library, would be that it became a borough function. That to me would be the most logical thing to do.”
Assembly Member Alan Bailey says the city and borough have discussed the library in the past, in part during cooperative relations committee meetings. He says he has mixed feelings about the issue.

“I’m just envisioning that were going to cut this out and right behind this they’re going to raise the taxes again. I know that’s not our problem, but it is a problem to our community. At what point do they stop. What effect does this have specifically on the city and the library by withdrawing these funds? What effect does this have? I have concerns about that.”

The Assembly voted 5-2 in favor of cutting the 0.7 mill non-area-wide property tax, therefore eliminating the borough’s contribution to library funding. Thompson and Assembly members Mike Painter, Todd Phillips, Agnes Moran, and Jim Van Horn voted for the motion, Baily and Rotecki voted against.

Any remaining residual funds will go into the non-area-wide fund and can be used for projects such as sewer repair.