Property taxes within Ketchikan city limits could be going up. Ketchikan’s City Council is set to consider Thursday whether to raise rates by half a mill to cover city services like the police and fire departments.
The increase would bring the city’s property tax rate to $7.10 per $1,000 of assessed value. According to the city’s estimates, the average owner of a single-family home valued at roughly $250,000 would see their taxes rise by about $125 a year. It’s projected to raise just shy of $450,000 in revenue.
The council green-lit the tax hike in theory last December when it passed this year’s city budget. But the council has yet to actually raise rates. The council budgeted for the same half-mill tax hike in 2020 and 2021 to pay for raises for city workers approved in 2019. The council delayed the tax increases because of the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Acting City Manager Lacey Simpson writes in a memo that delaying the tax hike again could have dire consequences. Even with the tax increase, city officials project that this year’s budget will draw down general fund reserves by $1.7 million.
“Simply put, if the City Council wishes to retain a qualified and appropriately compensated workforce to service the needs of the City and also position itself well for drafting the 2023 General Government Operating and Capital Budget, increasing revenue streams in 2022 via property tax is well beyond optional. A failure to do so yet again will trigger a very serious conversation with the City Council about resuming hiring freezes, furloughs and possible layoffs,” Simpson writes.
Ketchikan’s City Council is scheduled to consider the tax hike Thursday evening.
In other business, the council is scheduled to consider a new plan for busing cruise ship passengers from a private terminal in Ward Cove to the city’s downtown port.
Buses have been dropping passengers in a private lot near Berth 4 after the Ward Cove Dock Group rejected a city proposal to split buses between Berth 2 and the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center over cost and health concerns.
Now, Ward Cove Dock Group vice president Jennifer Black writes in a letter to the city that the company would like to drop passengers closer to the downtown core on Berths 2 and 3. She says the company is willing to cover the city’s cost to operate the shuttle staging area.
The city’s port and harbors director, Darryl Verfaillie, estimates that the proposal would cost about $70,000 in extra staffing from early June to late August. City officials are asking the council how to proceed.
Also on Thursday, the council is scheduled to hear a presentation from the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition on bacteria levels on Ketchikan’s beaches. A water quality monitoring program funded by the federal Environmental Protection Agency has found unsafe levels of fecal bacteria from humans, dogs and birds at a wide variety of sites all over Ketchikan in recent years. The Watershed Coalition is expected to ask the city for help addressing the issue.
Finally, the council is scheduled to consider requiring parking permits along parts of Park Avenue in response to residents’ complaints. Under a proposal submitted by police chief Jeff Walls, residents would be issued permits for special residential parking zones along Park Avenue. Vehicles parked in a residential parking zone without a permit between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. would be towed. Walls writes that a similar system could be set up in other areas where parking is scarce.
Ketchikan’s City Council is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Thursday in its chambers at City Hall. Members of the public can address the council at the beginning of the meeting, The meeting is broadcast on local cable channels and livestreamed at the city’s website.