Tax issues are on the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly agenda again on Monday, along with the question of whether to remove wooden benches next to the sidewalk in front of the Centennial Building downtown.
The first tax item up for introduction is an ordinance that would exempt the first $500 of residential rent from sales taxes. That exemption originally was tied to an earlier proposal that called for raising the tax cap on single-purchase items. But, the Assembly split the question, and at its last meeting voted to indefinitely postpone raising the sales tax cap.
In a memo to the Assembly, borough staff recommends also indefinitely postponing the rent exemption. The memo states that without additional revenue from raising the tax cap to pay the difference, exempting part of residential rent would cost the borough about $130,000 a year.
On top of that, the memo states that the rental exemption would not provide financial relief to residents of subsidized low-income housing.
The newest version of an often-amended retail marijuana tax also is on Monday’s agenda. This version returns to the original proposal of a 5-percent tax, but it would be an excise tax rather than an additional sales tax.
The ordinance also calls for reimbursing the City of Ketchikan for its 5-percent pot tax from the proceeds collected within city limits. That way, the tax on retail cannabis would be 5 percent everywhere in the borough.
But, at the request of Assembly Member Glen Thompson, there are some optional add-on amendments for the Assembly to consider. One would earmark proceeds from the tax for educational facilities; one would earmark proceeds for drug prevention programs; and one would add an additional tax of 5 cents per milligram of THC for concentrated cannabis products.
The Assembly also will have the option of placing the pot-tax question in front of voters in October. Because the proposed tax is an excise tax rather than a sales tax, borough code doesn’t require voter ratification.
While it’s not an action item, Borough Manager Dan Bockhorst has asked for Assembly direction regarding removal of the wooden benches on Dock Street downtown.
During the Aug. 1st meeting, the Assembly agreed that the benches should be removed, but that the borough should first consult the City of Ketchikan. In his report to the Assembly, Bockhorst writes that since that meeting, he’s heard from many citizens who do not want the benches removed, and the Ketchikan City Council also has objected to the plan.
The issue came up because some businesses on Dock Street complained about activity on the benches, which sometimes are used by homeless and/or intoxicated people.
During their meeting on Aug. 4th, City Council members suggested that the community instead work together to address the root causes of homelessness and chronic inebriation.
Bockhorst asks in his report whether the Assembly wants to continue with plans to remove the benches, and whether the borough should participate in a collaborate effort as suggested by city officials.
Monday’s Assembly meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. in Borough Assembly chambers at the White Cliff building. Public comment will be heard at the start of the meeting.