The Ketchikan City Council agreed to slightly lower the city property tax rate to 6.6 mills, down from 6.7. There was a little bit of grumbling, though.
Mayor Lew Williams III said he only has one problem with the proposal.
“Bob gets all the credit,” he joked. “I mean, read that letter: ‘Bob Newell said, Bob Newell said.’”
Bob Newell is the city finance director, and in a memo he suggested lowering the mill rate because of increased assessed property values. Those higher assessments would have increased city property tax revenue by almost $100,000.
Newell wrote that lowering the city’s mill rate slightly brings that extra revenue closer to budget revenue projections.
Council Member Mark Flora said the slight adjustment saves the average property owner $25 this year. He said he supports the proposal, but, “we may be back here next year, being the guys who raised the taxes.”
Flora added that he’d like the city to look into repealing its business personal property tax.
Also Thursday, the council agreed to tentatively move forward with a driving safety awareness campaign. A preliminary proposal was drafted by Kim Simpson of Ketchikan Public Utilities. It calls for a year-long campaign with professionally produced radio and video spots, print and social-media advertising, banners and signs.
Simpson said it targets two separate audiences: Pedestrians and drivers. The one targeting pedestrians encourages them to be more aware of traffic.
“The other one is specifically with texting. I’m not going to go through it, but it’s pretty effective. It’s a little bit scary,” she said. “It’s kind of targeted at the young people, but I do want to say that one of the KPU vehicles was rear-ended by a professional person who was texting on North Tongass (Highway) who belongs to a different public body. So it’s not just the kids.”
The cost estimate for the year-long campaign is $64,000. Council members supported the concept, but asked that it be pared down somewhat. They asked Simpson to bring back a more formal proposal for them to vote on.
The council also discussed what to do with the former juvenile detention facility vacated by the state a couple of years ago. Women in Safe Homes is interested in the building, but hasn’t been able to secure funding to renovate it.
The council directed city staff to look into grants that the city could apply for in partnership with WISH, while still keeping the facility available for sale if someone else wants to make an offer.
The next Ketchikan City Council meeting is June 21.