The Ketchikan City Council on Thursday at its regular meeting is set to decide whether to approve an increase of the city’s property mill rate from 6.6 mills to 6.7 mills in addition to considering approval of an emergency ordinance extension and an amended emergency ordinance.
Raising the mill rate by 0.1 mill, according to a memo written by City Manager Karl Amylon, would generate an additional $86,888 in property tax revenue. That increased revenue, however, would still fall short by $19,472 of the $5.84 million that was projected to be collected when the 2021 general operating and capital budget was adopted.
The council has two proposed motions to choose between, one that would adopt a resolution that maintains the mill rate at 6.6 mills and one that increases the rate to 6.7 mills.
Amylon wrote that either resolution defers for another year the 0.5 mill levy increase that was the council’s approved strategy to finance the general fund’s cost of implementing the city personnel compensation plan update that went into effect in 2019.
According to a memo written by City Finance Director Michelle Johansen, the Ketchikan Gateway Borough assessor determined that the value of all taxable real and business properties located in the city as of Jan. 1 has decreased by $1.4 million over the past year. With a tax rate maintained at 6.6 mills, the city would see a decrease of $106,360 from the original projected revenue for 2021.
She also mentioned the 0.5 mill levy that Amylon referred to as having been deferred to help the community weather the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. A mitigation plan put in place during the onset of the pandemic took into account an expected decrease in sales taxes, Johansen wrote, but did not factor in a decrease in property tax revenue.
The city’s general fund is expected to realize a $3 million reduction in reserves due to the delay of the 0.5 mill levy increase in 2020 as well as the lack of cruise ship revenue.
Johansen also listed decreasing revenue due to increasing senior tax exemptions as another reason that tax revenue is falling.
A property tax rate increase of 0.1 mill would increase property taxes $10 per $100,000, or $25 for a home valued at $250,000 Johansen calculated in her memo. She added that the average assessed value of a single family residence within the city limits is about $258,200.
Johansen also explained that according to Alaska statues, the property tax levy must be set on or before June 15.
Another proposed motion that the council will consider Thursday would extend an emergency ordinance to address concerns during the continuing pandemic until Aug. 1.
The city’s emergency ordinance is set to expire on July 1, and the extension of the ordinance would allow time for a new, updated ordinance to be approved. The updated ordinance is set for consideration by the council in a separate agenda item.
City Attorney Mitch Seaver explained in the council’s meeting of May 20 that the ordinance that addresses where council meetings may be held and the quorum rules relating to telephonic participation did not allow for the mitigations that became necessary when the pandemic started and meetings had to be held virtually or at the Ted Ferry Civic Center to facilitate safer social distancing between council members as well as between attendees.
The emergency ordinance made those adaptations allowable.
The updated ordinance that Seaver has put on the council’s Thursday agenda will allow more flexibility during times of emergency in meeting locations so that an emergency ordinance would not have to be used, he explained in the May 20 meeting.
Extension of the existing emergency ordinance would give time for the newly amended ordinance to be approved in two readings and to allow for the required 30-day wait before it is implemented.
The council also will consider a motion to direct city staff to offer support for the Royal Carribbean International cruise line's proposed operations plan regarding unvaccinated minor passengers during the upcoming 2021 Alaska cruise season.
Although cruise scheduling continues to evolve, RCI currently plans to bring one ship to Alaska with weekly sailings beginning July 24, with a second ship to start weekly sailings on Aug. 1, according to a memo from Simpson to the council.
RCI has contacted the City of Ketchikan, requesting council support in allowing up to 5% of the ship's total guest capacity as unvaccinated minors.
“An unvaccinated minor is defined as a guest under the age of 16 prior to August 1st, and under the age of 12 after August 1st, 2021, who has not been fully vaccinated against COVID‐19,” states the correspondence from RCI Destinations Director Preston Carnahan to Amylon.
All unvaccinated minor guests will be required to test for COVID-19 before boarding and to “adhere to strict mask policies based on CDC guidelines.”
Carnahan also emphasized that 100% of adult guests and ship crew members will be fully vaccinated.
Simpson noted in her memo that City of Ketchikan staff finds the cruise line’s plan to be “well thought-out and reasonable in implementing all available COVID-19 mitigation measures to ensure scheduled calls are safe for passengers as well as the community of Ketchikan.”
Other agenda items to be considered by the council Thursday include:
• Authorization to declare the 35-year-old Ketchikan Fire Department firefighting boat “Harry Newell” as surplus property and to dispose of the vessel by sale at public auction. In a marine survey conducted in January 2020, Acting Fire Chief Scott Brainard wrote in a memo, the vessel’s overall condition was rated as “fair,” with a market value of $175,000. The estimated replacement cost was listed as more than $1 million. Brainard also wrote that “the department has again applied for a response boat in the 2021 Port Security Grant Program,” with an anticipated funding selection date no later than July 16.
• Approval of a motion that would amend a contract between the City of Ketchikan/Ketchikan Public Utilities and Jacobs Engineering, Inc. for the negotiation with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation of a Compliance Order by Consent for water filtration. The amendment would add $184,385 to the contract, bringing the total contract amount to $466,885 if approved.
The City Council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at the Ted Ferry Civic Center. A maximum of 40 attendees will be allowed, including council and city staff members. Chairs will be set six feet apart.
Attendees will be asked to sign in at the door, and pens will be sanitized between users. Other surfaces also will be properly sanitized. Paper masks also will be available for use by attendees, and masks will be mandatory when six feet of distancing between people is not possible.
If the maximum number of attendees is exceeded, people will be asked to sign in, then wait outside where they will be contacted when it is their turn to speak, according to Deputy City Clerk Taylor Lee.
Individuals who would like to provide public comment telephonically during the meeting should contact the Ketchikan city clerk’s office by 4 p.m. Thursday .
Individuals interested in providing written comments can do so via email, sent to email@example.com by 4 p.m. Thursday. Written comments will not be read at the meeting but will be “put on the table” for the City Council members.
The meeting can be viewed live via the KPU cable television service, on the City of Ketchikan YouTube channel, on the City of Ketchikan’s Facebook page and also on the City of Ketchikan website at http://www.ktn-ak.us/current-agendas-and-minutes.