Money was the topic of the night for the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly on Monday, with the borough budget, school district budget, community agency grants and how to pay for a big project at Houghtaling Elementary School on the table.
The school district’s Fiscal year 2018 budget passed without much discussion, but the borough’s budget took a while. That was mostly because of lengthy discussion about grants for nonprofit groups.
The Assembly has for years funded nonprofit grants through its economic development fund, but there’s no source of new revenue for that fund. So, this is pretty much the last year for grants, at least through that funding mechanism. To save as much as possible, the borough budget didn’t fully fund grant requests this year, which left some money still in the account.
Assembly Member Stephen Bradford proposed a series of amendments increasing those grants to use more of what’s in that fund. He said the agencies accomplish much more with the grant money than the borough could.
“I also know that this fund is dwindling and will not have enough next year to make similar grants,” he said. “But I was intrigued and influenced by the comments from one of the citizens last meeting who suggested that the funds are there now; they need them now; they’ll deal with the reductions in the future at that time.”
All of those amendments failed 3-4. In each case, Bradford and Assembly Members Felix Wong and Judith McQuerry voted yes. Mike Painter, Glen Thompson, John Harrington and Rodney Dial voted against increasing grants for nonprofits, citing the need to reduce costs.
One nonprofit agency – Ketchikan Youth Initiatives – wasn’t on the list of grants. Bobbie McCreary asked the Assembly to consider KYI’s request for $1,000 to start a youth workforce development program. Bradford proposed adding their request to the budget, but that amendment failed 2-5. McQuerry joined the “no” votes, arguing that the agency should explore other grant options first.
A motion to create an ad hoc committee to look into options for funding nonprofit agencies in the future was indefinitely postponed. But, Assembly members did agree they’d like to have a work session to talk about the issue.
The Assembly also had a long discussion about the Houghtaling bus drop-off zone. Members were concerned about the approximately $832,000 price tag, especially if the project isn’t accepted for a state reimbursement program.
Borough Finance Director Cynna Gubatayao said while the decision isn’t final, the project has been recommended for approval by an official at the state Department of Education and Early Development.
“We did receive notice late Friday afternoon that the individual who has been working with us on the DEED application has recommended approval of our project at $929,000, so DEED added a 5 percent contingency and a small overhead amount,” she said. “We’re waiting for that final approval.”
The Assembly eventually voted to consider funding the project only after the state makes a final determination.
Also Monday, the Assembly approved about $1,000 for Mayor David Landis to travel to Kanayama, Japan, for the 30th anniversary of the Ketchikan-Kanayama cultural exchange program.