The Ketchikan Public Library would likely have to lay off nearly half of its staff, eliminate almost all programs for children, teens and adults and reduce its hours if an initiative to defund the library passes this fall. That’s according to an analysis by Library Director Pat Tully that’ll be presented to Ketchikan’s City Council Thursday night.

Proposition 2 will ask voters outside Ketchikan and Saxman city limits whether to repeal the borough’s “nonareawide library powers.” That would prevent the borough from taxing home and business owners outside city limits to fund the library. Those taxes provide about $500,000 in annual funding to the library, or nearly 40% of the budget.

On Thursday, Ketchikan’s City Council will consider spending $10,000 on a public education campaign about the impacts of the proposition.

Acting City Manager Lacey Simpson says the program would tell voters about the implications of the funding cut.

“This ballot proposition, even though it is not a city ballot proposition, obviously has significant impact and meaning for the city” she said in a phone interview. “So educating voters on the value of the library, the services that it offers, those sorts of things, I think would be beneficial to voters and their understanding before they head to the polls.”

Simpson says the city has funded education campaigns for previous ballot measures – like in 2019, when the city pushed for a bond measure to build a fiber optic cable to the mainland.

If the funding cut goes through, Ketchikan residents who live outside city limits would not be eligible for a library card. The library director says major changes would be necessary in the shared online library system, as well as sharing between the Ketchikan Public Library and school libraries.

Simpson says it’s still too early to say how far-reaching the impacts of the funding cut could be.

“Because this came very recently and quickly we, we being the city and the City Council, we’ve not really dug into the full impacts of this. Nor have we continued to have conversations with the Borough. And so all of those would have to come to pass if the ballot proposition is ratified by the voters,” Simpson said.

If the ballot proposition passes, it would take effect in 2024.

In other business, the council is scheduled to discuss whether to formally oppose a constitutional convention. Alaskans will be asked this November whether to revise the state’s primary governing document in a once-a-decade vote.

Council Member Janalee Gage, who requested the discussion, says Alaska has one of the strongest constitutions in the United States and communities should stand up for it.

“And I think that if we allow for it to be opened up, we will have a lot of foot soldiers in the room rewriting our constitution and basically taking away our freedoms, our liberties, our civil rights, our judiciary, education, schools, Permanent Fund Dividend, natural resources. Because all of those things are protected under our constitution.”

Gage says similar resolutions opposing a constitutional convention have been adopted by the Alaska Municipal League, and by the Juneau Chamber of Commerce.  The Prince of Wales Community Advisory Council (POWCAC) is considering adopting a similar resolution.

Ketchikan’s City Council is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Thursday at City Hall. The public can weigh in at the beginning of the meeting. It’s also broadcast on local cable channels and on the city’s website.

This story has been updated to note that POWCAC has not yet adopted a resolution opposing a constitutional convention but it considering it.