The Ketchikan City Council began its review of the draft 2016 City of Ketchikan budget Thursday, and learned what some of the proposed fee increases will mean in dollars for individual residents.
City Finance Director Bob Newell said the proposed 8-percent wastewater rate increase will mean the monthly cost will go from $46.28 to $49.98.
A proposed 10 percent solid-waste increase means customers will pay $10.69 rather than $9.72, and the areawide fee will jump from $15 to $18 per month.
While fee increases have been programed in to the 2016 draft budget, it includes no sales or property tax rate hikes. Last year, the Council increased sales taxes, and Mayor Lew Williams III asked how much of a difference that’s made to the city’s projected revenue.
Finance Director Bob Newell said it’s not as much as they’d hoped, but the third quarter, which includes much of the lucrative cruise season, hasn’t been calculated yet. Williams said he expects that will provide a boost.
“I don’t think our first quarter or second quarter were all that thrilling, but I think, I’m hoping they had a bigger year and it bumps us back up a little,” he said.
Newell said the first and second quarters actually were better than last year.
“Not by much, but they were better,” he said. “ (And) the number of passengers that came to Ketchikan in 2015 was about 930,000. Last year, the total was roughly 890,000, so there was a bump.”
Newell said it’s possible sales tax collection will improve as a result.
The Council talked briefly about the potential future revenue from a retail marijuana industry in Ketchikan. Council Member KJ Harris, who is a member of the Marijuana Advisory Committee, asked other Council members to keep an open mind and think about the sales tax and possible excise tax revenue.
Council Member Janalee Gage, who has spoken publicly in opposition to a legal marijuana industry, said she doesn’t believe there would be enough local demand for retail marijuana.
“Considering, most people that smoke are growing their own and they’re not going to pay all the excise, because it’s legal to do that now,” she said.
Alaskans in 2014 voted to legalize marijuana. It’s been legal to possess, consume and grow for personal use since February; and retail marijuana will become legal after the state develops regulations for that industry. However, local governments can opt out of allowing commercial marijuana.
Thursday’s budget meeting was the first of a series of special work sessions scheduled for the Council to review the draft 2016 city and Ketchikan Public Utilities budgets. The next special budget meeting is Nov. 30.