Borough leaders in Ketchikan are scheduled to tackle the thorny question of local education funding on Monday. Ketchikan’s Borough Assembly is looking for ways to close a persistent deficit in the account that provides the local share of school funding.
Right now, most borough property tax revenue is dedicated to school funding. But in recent years, the borough has paid out more than it’s taken in — in the most recent budget approved by the assembly in May, the gap is about $600,000.
There is one surefire way to close the gap: raising property taxes. But borough leaders have been hesitant to hike tax rate, currently set at $5.20 per $1,000 of assessed value. And expanding exemptions, as suggested by an unnamed assembly member quoted in this week’s meeting agenda, would cut revenue further and raise administration costs. So borough officials are looking for other solutions.
One option floated by the borough’s finance department is to dedicate roughly $1.2 million in annual federal payments in lieu of taxes to the education fund.
Another option identified by borough finance officials in 2018 during a similar discussion is to eliminate the borough’s sales tax cap — as it stands, taxes are only charged on the first $2,000 of most purchases. That would raise another $1.2 million, though it would have to be negotiated with Ketchikan’s city government.
There are also some smaller-dollar options — upping the borough’s hotel tax from 4% to 6% would raise between $20,000 and $80,000, and a new car-rental tax could raise another $20,000 or more.
Ketchikan’s Borough Assembly is scheduled to consider its options on Monday.
In other business, the assembly is set to vote on a resolution supporting a $6.9 million Congressional earmark for a new homeless shelter. Ketchikan’s City Council voted last month to support the Park Avenue Temporary Home’s application to Sen. Lisa Murkowski for federal funding. A location for the shelter has not been finalized.
Ketchikan’s Borough Assembly meets at 5:30 p.m. Monday in the White Cliff Building. Members of the public have a chance to weigh in at the beginning of the meeting. It’s livestreamed on local cable channels and the borough’s website.