The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly unanimously approved all items on its agenda at its regular meeting Monday night, including a budget for the 2021 fiscal year.
The 2021 budget passed by the Assembly was a substitute for the original 2021 budget presented at the Assembly’s May 4 regular meeting.
The $39 million substitute budget removed a $400,000 placeholder item for a project to replace a broken boiler in Ketchikan High School. That expenditure was placed on the consent calendar at Monday’s meeting for separate consideration.
Assembly members voted to move the boiler project expenditure off the consent calendar for discussion with the borough finance director. After a round of clarifying questions about whether the boiler replacement project was related to an ongoing effort to install a biomass heater in the high school, the Assembly unanimously voted in favor of the expenditure. It is set for public hearing at the Assembly’s June 1 regular meeting.
The substitute 2021 budget also removed a 3% cost-of-living adjustment for all regular benefited borough employees that was included in the original version of the budget. The Assembly voted at its May 4 regular meeting against the 3% increase due to the uncertain status of the borough’s finances.
Assembly Member Sven Westergard made a motion to add the cost-of-living adjustment back into the substitute budget. The motion failed after no other Assembly member seconded his motion.
Two items that affect the Ketchikan School District saw passage Monday. The Assembly approved the spending authority for the Ketchikan School District for the 2021 fiscal year and set it at $45,975,291. The Assembly also voted to suspend provisions in the borough code that cap the amount of unspent district funds that can be carried over between fiscal years. The suspension was introduced and set for public hearing on June 1.
Finally, the Assembly set its property tax levels for the 2021 fiscal year. The mill rate is unchanged for all service areas except for the Old Dairy Service Area, which had its mill rate set to 5.8.
Abner Hoage, the incident commander for the Ketchikan Emergency Operations Center, said during a presentation at Monday’s meeting that a drive-thru COVID-19 testing initiative last week was a success and announced that a similar program will be held again this week on Wednesday and Thursday.
“Currently, we have a good handle on the spread of this virus in our community,” Hoage said.
According to a Monday night EOC email, free testing will be provided at Berth 3 between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.