Three candidates are running for three open seats on the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly. Incumbents Glen Thompson and Mike Painter are seeking re-election, and former Assembly Member John Harrington wants to return to that body.
All three participated in KRBD’s live on-air candidate forum Wednesday. One of the issues discussed is the Assembly’s relationship with the School Board and City Council.
The Borough Assembly provides funding to the local school district and has review powers over the district’s annual budget. There have been disagreements and misunderstandings over that budget.
Painter suggests that the Assembly and School Board hold a combined meeting before the budget process begins. It’s something that’s happened in the past, but not every year.
“The other thing is, people need to keep the personal comments a little bit at bay sometimes,” Painter said. “Because sometimes things get reported by the media and it kind of riles things up.”
Harrington, who formerly served on the School Board, said the Assembly and the School Board need to work together to come up with a budget process that clearly lays out the spending needs of the school district.
“It is mind-numbing to try and go through and figure out how they get the money, where they get the money and how the process works,” he said. “I’ve dealt with it for too many years and I still, every time I have to go back and try to figure out what are those terms, where is all this coming from? So if we can get the format the same, so that everybody can be working off the same page, I think that will help.”
Thompson agrees that changing the process so everyone clearly understands the school district budget would make a big difference in the Assembly-School Board relationship.
There also is a perception that the Assembly and City Council often are at odds. Thompson said there have been some disagreements, but there’s been quite a bit of cooperation as well.
“We just did a $200,000 grant for Hole-In-the-Wall (harbor); we did a $2.5 million for the Whitman Lake project,” he said. “So we work cooperatively in a lot of ways with the city. I think the last issue that came up that was a controversy between the borough and the city, and it likely may come back again because I intend to raise it at the planning session, is the level of funding that the folks living outside of city limits pay to the city coffers.”
Thompson specifically noted the nonareawide mill rate to fund the city-run public library, and an increase in the city’s sales tax.
When asked whether the borough should take over some city functions that provide areawide services, such as the library, the three candidates say it’s possible. However, the library has significant debt because of the new library building. The candidates say they wouldn’t want to take on that debt if they agreed to operate the department.
The candidates also discussed the borough’s lawsuit over the State of Alaska’s required local contribution for education, the recently approved loan to OceansAlaska and how they all believe consolidation is a dead issue. You can listen to the entire program, which is posted below.