The Ketchikan City Council will vote Thursday on a plan that would take advantage of Ketchikan’s busy summer tourism season to raise more tax revenue. But locals would also pay more during the summer — in taxes on rent, groceries and other necessities.
The plan would raise the combined city and borough sales tax rate that consumers pay from 6.5% to 8% from April to September. The combined tax rate in the offseason would be 5.5%.
City finance officials say the seasonal sales tax system is an effort to increase revenue to support raises for public-sector workers ranging from accountants to museum staff to police officers. Some of those raises have already been approved — the council greenlit pay hikes for electrical workers and non-union employees earlier this summer.
The seasonal tax system is estimated to increase city revenue by nearly $2 million per year. If approved after its public hearing and final vote on Thursday, it would take effect next April.
In other business, acting city manager Lacey Simpson is asking the council to authorize a campaign against a borough ballot measure that seeks to cut funding to the Ketchikan Public Library in response to its decision to host a storytime with a drag queen during Pride Month.
Proposition 2 would repeal a 0.7 mill property tax on homes and businesses outside city limits, which partially funds the library.
If it passes, the measure would reduce the library’s funding by nearly 40%. In a memo, Simpson says the $500,000 funding cut would require the city to raise taxes or cut back on library hours and lay off staff.
Proposition 2 will go before Ketchikan Gateway Borough voters in areas outside city limits on Oct. 4.
Park and promenade naming
Also on Thursday, the council is scheduled to formally name Eagle Park near Berth III. The small patch of grass across from City Hall, which is home to an iconic eagle carving by renowned Tlingit carver Nathan Jackson, doesn’t have a formal name.
Controversy erupted earlier this year when the City Council considered naming the park after Len Laurance, an Australian businessman who promoted cruise tourism in Ketchikan. The council is scheduled to vote Thursday to name Ketchikan’s waterfront promenade after Laurance instead.
Ketchikan’s City Council is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Thursday at City Hall. Members of the public have a chance to weigh in at the beginning of the meeting. It’s broadcast on local cable channels on the city’s website.