The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly postponed action again Monday on a proposed ban on commercial marijuana activities, choosing to let the ad hoc Marijuana Advisory Committee continue gathering information on the topic.
The ban originally was proposed by Assembly Member John Harrington in February. It was postponed by the Assembly at that time until last night, in hopes that the Legislature would take some action to establish regulations for commercial marijuana within the state.
The Legislature did not take that action, although state lawmakers did agree to form a new Marijuana Control Board to take care of commercial regulations.
Harrington said Monday that he wants to let the local ad hoc Marijuana Advisory Committee continue its work before the Assembly considers a ban.
“I think it needs to be part of the arsenal of things we consider when it comes time to deal with marijuana recommendations and consideration,” he said.
Harrington said it’s there if the borough decides in the future that a ban is the best choice, but more information is needed.
At their last meeting, Marijuana Advisory Committee members said they want more guidance from local government bodies. Specifically, committee members want to make sure they’re not wasting time looking into regulations.
Assembly Member Glenn Thompson chairs that committee.
“What I would like to have, and I think I’ve gotten it just from the comments from around the table, is the sense that the borough still desires to continue this committee and gather as much information as we can,” he said.
Also Monday, the Assembly approved an ordinance that establishes certain rules regarding borough-owned recreation sites, but removed a section that would have outlawed firewood containing metal fasteners.
The issue was brought to the borough by members of the public who were concerned about nails left on beaches after pallets were used for bonfires. Even with the section on metal fasteners removed, the ordinance does note that littering is prohibited, and the metal fasteners from pallets would count as litter.
While not on the agenda, the subject of funding for schools came up. Several people spoke during public comment in favor of increased funding for schools, and some others said they were concerned about increased taxes.
During his regular presentation to the Assembly, Ketchikan School District Superintendent Robert Boyle made a case for an increase in the borough’s contribution, possibly through a property tax hike.
He said that would help make up for likely reduced education funding from the state.
“That’s in response to $1.8 million in cuts,” Boyle said. “The cuts include the $611,000 in one-time funding, $914,000 in the proposed 4.1 percent from the Senate, which as I said we don’t know where that’s going at this time. And then the decrease in basic need from the state, which increases the mandated contributions from the borough, which decreases the discretionary amounts that end up available for the school district.”
In a memo sent to the borough last week, Boyle specifically suggested a .3 mill rate increase. That would bring the mill rate for property in the borough to 5.3, and would bring in approximately $400,000 more per year for the borough.
For a $200,000 home, a .3 mill rate increase would equal about $75 on top of the current annual property tax bill.
The Assembly did not take action on Boyle’s suggestion. The School Board-Assembly liaison meets Tuesday, and the School Board meets Wednesday. The FY16 school district budget will be discussed at both meetings.
At the end of Monday’s Assembly meeting, Mayor David Landis noted that the School Board might need to call a special meeting before adopting its budget, because how much schools will get from the state remains up in the air.
Although it was supposed to wrap up on Sunday, the Legislature still is considering details of the state budget. State lawmakers adjourned Monday evening, and will reconvene Tuesday morning.
A school district budget must be submitted to the Assembly by May 1.