The Ketchikan Gateway Borough looks set to reduce its contribution to the Ketchikan School District. This came as the borough assembly took its first steps toward approving a $55.6 million borough-wide budget and $48.1 million school district budget.
The Assembly voted Monday to decrease the borough’s contribution to the school district by $153,490 — less than 2% of its nearly $11 million appropriation to Ketchikan’s public schools.
During discussion, several assembly members expressed support for reducing the local contribution, including Jeremy Bynum who initially suggested a $200,000 cut.
“I don’t think it’s an enormous amount, and I think that they can make adjustments to account for it.”
Bynum also suggested the assembly consider slightly raising the property taxes to make up part of the district’s ongoing budget deficit. Most of the borough’s contribution to schools comes from property taxes.
Assembly member Judith McQuerry says she’d support increasing the mill rate which is how property taxes are assessed.
“We have committed to funding education through property taxes. I’m not saying we shouldn’t cut anything, but I think that we need to bite the bullet, and start by funding education the way we have committed to doing it and that includes a very small mill increase.”
But property taxes weren’t on Monday’s agenda so no action was taken.
McQuerry proposed a compromise to reduce the borough’s contribution by $153,490.
“What I’m proposing is to decrease our contribution by that much in anticipation that the school district may be able to find that or save that over the year and we will improve our standing by, at the next meeting, increasing our mill rate by point-two percent.”
The borough assembly was split down the middle whether to reduce money for schools by about $153,000. McQuerry, Bynum and Assembly Member Sven Westergard were for it. And assembly members David Landis, Austin Otos and Felix Wong were against. Borough Mayor Rodney Dial broke the tie, voting in favor of the funding cut.
Assembly member AJ Pierce wasn’t at the meeting.
But that’s not the end of the process. The final budget still needs to be brought to a public hearing for a final vote. That’s slated to happen at the borough’s May 17 meeting.