This week, Cruise Lines International Association sued the City and Borough of Juneau over how it uses cruise head taxes. While Juneau is the only community named, the implications of the lawsuit could affect other Alaska communities that levy their own head taxes. Like Ketchikan.
The City of Ketchikan is keeping a close eye on what happens with the head-tax lawsuit, says City Manager Karl Amylon, who declined to be recorded for this report.
One area that could have broad-reaching effect is that the lawsuit objects not only to Juneau’s use of its own head tax funds, but to that city’s use of state-issued cruise head tax money. Amylon says it’s not clear whether the industry is objecting to the state head tax overall, in addition to Juneau’s use of it.
The City of Ketchikan receives state head-tax funds and levies its own head taxes. Amylon says the city keeps the cruise industry in the loop when it comes to what those funds pay for, and there have been no objections so far from the industry.
Locally collected head tax money goes directly to port improvement projects. Amylon says state head tax money initially went to pay off city debt for construction of Berths 3 and 4 of the downtown cruise dock. State head taxes also have paid for the Thomas Basin seawall project, and some port operating and maintenance costs.
Amylon says future head tax funds likely would be used in Ketchikan to continue upgrading the port to accommodate larger cruise ships.
He says Juneau has approached the City of Ketchikan and the Ketchikan Gateway Borough to sign on as friends of the court. The Borough Assembly likely will talk about that on Monday, and the City Council will take up the issue next Thursday.