The borough’s $2 per pack tobacco tax brought in about a million dollars in revenue last year. Most of that – 85 percent – went to the Ketchikan School District. The remaining 15 percent was designated for tobacco cessation programs.
But the borough couldn’t decide how to spend that money. Now that it’s halfway into 2018, the fund has grown to about $350,000.
During a work session Monday, the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly talked about options for spending the funds. Proposals included a grant program for smoking cessation efforts, funding a school resource officer, or using the entire amount for a school security program.
In the end, though, the assembly decided to ask PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center to bring back a proposal.
Assembly Member Stephen Bradford made the motion to enter into an up-to-$20,000 contract with PeaceHealth to develop a community-wide. program.
“I think we’re going to ask them to put in a significant amount of time, effort and thought,” he said. “Let’s pay them a little for that, let them bring back a proposal to us. They know far more than we obviously do, I think. Let’s get some experts in here and come back with a proposal that we can deal with.”
Matt Eisenhower of PeaceHealth said they should be able to meet a late-July deadline for a proposal. And, he said, the intention would be to create an inclusive program.
“Our efforts would be a community-wide, collaborative effort to include all of the resources,” he said. “There are three main components of what you’re suggesting. All of them have different areas of expertise necessary. We have our fingers in all three of those, but there are others in the community that can come alongside of us.”
The three areas are tobacco cessation, education and health care.
Also Monday, the assembly heard a presentation about the current sales tax program and different exemptions within the borough. At the end of the presentation, Assembly Member Judith McQuerry proposed eliminating jewelry sales from the borough’s single-item tax cap, but nobody seconded the motion so it died.
The borough’s sales tax cap on single-item purchases is $1,000, and has been at that level for decades.
In other matters, the assembly adopted an ordinance allowing local gardeners to sell their produce directly to other residents from a garden stand.
This report has been slightly edited to correct the year.