The Ketchikan City Council is scheduled to adopt the 2019 City of Ketchikan and Ketchikan Public Utilities budgets on Thursday, its last scheduled meeting of 2018.
The council will consider increases to City of Ketchikan property taxes, and water and electric rates.
The council already has added a 6-percent increase in wastewater fees to the city budget. During its budget review session of Dec. 13th, the council asked City Manager Karl Amylon to bring back motions on Thursday for the other three rate hikes.
The proposed property tax increase is .8 mills. That would bring the current rate from 6.6 mills to 7.4 within the city. The Ketchikan Gateway Borough charges a property tax rate of 5 mills. So the combined rate for city property owners would go from 11.6 to 12.4. For a home worth $200,000, the proposed increase would mean about $160 more in annual property taxes.
Such an increase would generate about $700,000 more in annual revenue for the City of Ketchikan, according to a memo from Acting Finance Director Michelle Johansen.
Johansen writes that the wastewater increase would cost individual residences an additional $3.18 per month.
A proposed 3.5-percent electric rate increase would cost the average household an extra $3.88 per month. And a proposed 5.5-percent water rate increase would cost individual residences an additional $3.02 per month.
That’s a total about $10 more per month per household for all three service fee increases.
Those increases would generate about a million dollars a year in additional revenue for the city and KPU.
Amylon told the council that increasing revenue is essential to maintain infrastructure and services, and to keep quality employees.
Council Member Mark Flora agreed. He said he’s been through several budget cycles, and each of those years has seen a “status quo” budget.
“I don’t see where the status quo can be maintained for an indefinite timeline into the future. As Mr. Amylon already pointed out: Aging infrastructure, we’ve got Bailey generators throwing pistons, we’ve got something at Beaver Falls from 1906,” Flora said. “While I don’t think anyone here is hopping on one foot to get out there and raise fees and raise taxes, if we don’t come up with an incremental plan, and give residents a chance to see some numbers and hopefully adjust their own household budgets, we’re going to have a far worse discussion when we don’t have power on Sundays.”
Flora added that the city needs to come up with a way to get more revenue from the 1.1 million cruise passengers expected to visit this coming season. He says it needs to be something other than a head tax, that the city can use to finance infrastructure needs.
Other council members agreed. Amylon says the city is looking at ways to do that, but probably will need to hire a special attorney to make sure whatever the city comes up with passes legal scrutiny.
Thursday’s Ketchikan City Council meeting starts at 7 p.m. in City Council chambers. Public comment is scheduled at the start of the meeting.