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8/21/2017
Assembly to talk new taxes: Marijuana might take center stage

By ZACHARY HALASCHAK
Daily News Staff Writer

Monday’s Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly meeting is poised to hold four separate public hearings, but it appears much of the meeting may be eclipsed by talk of a new pot tax.

The talk of new taxes come as a remedy for the dwindling Economic Development Fund, a borough funding source for non-profit organizations, including the arts, around the Ketchikan community. The fund has been in a steady decline since it lacks any revenue stream to stay afloat.

According to an agenda item from the Aug. 7 meeting, where the issue was initially raised: “The Economic Development Fund (EDF) has had no revenue source for several years, and the fund balance has been declining. … Including administrative fees, the total FY 2018 appropriations are $523,297. The anticipated balance available for funding FY 2019 programs is only $350,000.”

At the Assembly’s Aug. 7 meeting, Ordinance 1839 was introduced and ultimately set for Monday’s public hearing date. That ordinance would levy an area-wide marijuana excise tax of 10 percent with credit for City of Ketchikan pot tax payments.

Another amendment tacked on to Monday’s public hearing would instead substitute the excise tax in Ordinance 1839 with a 5-percent borough special sales tax, also with credit for the City of Ketchikan. That amended ordinance would require a public vote in October’s municipal election.

Kacie Paxton told the Daily News following the last Assembly meeting that this decision is important because it will determine how the Economic Development Fund will stay afloat. She also explained the differences between Ordinance 1839 and the amended ordinance creating a sales tax.

“Essentially, on (Monday), staff will bring back the (10-percent excise tax) ordinance as introduced Aug. 7, as well as a substitute version of the ordinance for a special 5-percent borough sales tax that would credit the city of Ketchikan, and the proposition would go to voters,” Paxton said.

A public hearing allows the community to voice their opinion on an issue during the meeting, following which the Assembly then discusses and votes on the issue.

According to Borough documents: “Citizens will sign up on a sheet and testify in the order they sign up. Citizens may present arguments in favor or in opposition.”

The three other public hearings on the docket that citizens may sign up to speak about include:

• The adoption of Ordinance 1838 — an ordinance that would amend borough law relating to the property tax exemption for structures containing a fire protection system. The amendment would eliminate the exemptions. Within the Ketchikan city limits there are currently 196 fire exemptions, with a total value of $871,900. Of those 196, 180 would see a change in their tax bill of less than $100.

• An ordinance that would rezone land from the “Public Lands and Institutions” designation to “Low Density Residential.” The Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority requested the rezone, citing plans to develop some of the land for residential use.

• An ordinance allowing the imposition of liens for delinquent fees and charges on a non-area-wide basis and in service areas. According to the agenda item, “Ordinance 1837 provides additional tools to the finance and law departments for use in collections efforts.”

During Monday’s meeting, the Assembly is also expected to:

• Hear a presentation on the Vallenar Bay Road Project.

• Introduce an ordinance ending the exemption of borough transient occupancy tax within the city limits.

• Vote on a resolution identifying and prioritizing fiscal 2019 requests for state funding.

Monday’s meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. in the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly chambers, 1900 First Ave.

There will be time for public comment at the beginning of the meeting.