A request from the City of Saxman for $199,000 from the Ketchikan Gateway Borough’s cruise passenger head tax fund was deferred Monday by the borough assembly.

Assembly members wanted more details about project costs, preferably a line-item budget. They also were concerned about using nearly all of this year’s head-tax grant money on one project.

Borough Finance Director Cynna Gubatayao  told the assembly that there is $200,000 appropriated for grants in this year’s borough budget. But there’s more in a reserve fund.

“The assembly’s target in prior years has been to keep somewhere between $1 million and $2 million, closer to the $2 million, in that fund,” she said. “The idea being that if something happened and the CPV funds were yanked out from under you, we could continue to operate for one more year. The ending fund balance in FY ’19, including the $200,000 that’s already appropriated to allow you to award grants, would be $1.981 million.”

The Commercial Passenger Vessel excise tax is collected by the state. Part of the revenue is distributed to local governments that are directly affected by cruise tourism. CPV funds must be spent on projects that benefit cruise passengers.

Saxman Mayor Sylvia Banie told the assembly that the grant request would pay for reproducing two totem poles in the Saxman Totem Park, a significant tourist attraction. She said it’s challenging to come up with a detailed cost breakdown until a carver has been hired.

“We are given an estimated cost for these two poles, and I think we’re under. I’m sure the expense is probably going to be more,” she said. “A master carver per foot normally charges – well, I think you guys might be aware of Nathan Jackson and what he charges for his and that’s per foot. It can be very expensive when you have a 40-foot pole that’s totally carved from the bottom to the top. There’s really not any open spaces in there.”

Banie was referring to the Chief Ebbits pole. The second pole is the Rock Oysterman. She said the overall project likely will take two to five years.

The assembly asked Banie to bring back more information about costs, a cost range for different carvers, and the possibility of funding the project over two years rather than one. If the assembly approves partial funding this year, Saxman would have to re-apply next year for the rest of the project costs.

Also Monday, the assembly approved the formation of a community agency grants committee to review grant requests and make recommendations to the assembly.

The next regular assembly meeting is Tuesday, Sept. 4th. It’s a day later than usual because of the Labor Day holiday.