SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Losses in sales tax could result in mill rate increase
Chamber hears more about Port Expansion Project
By Marie L. Monyak


March 09, 2006

Ketchikan, Alaska - Councilman Lew Williams was the invited guest speaker at the weekly luncheon for the Greater Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce Wednesday. William's presentation was about the Port Expansion Project and he provided those in attendance with a handout containing a great deal of statistical information on Ketchikan's sales and property tax, the general fund and community agency funding.

jpg Councilman Lew Williams

City Councilman Lew Williams
Photograph by Dick Kauffman

The Port Revenue Bond and Berth III are high interest topics in Ketchikan and as a result the luncheon came close to standing room only as business owners took time from their busy schedules to attend.

Williams began, "I want to explain why the City Council feels the way they do about the port expansion project and talk about how we can relieve the congestion downtown and make room for the new panamax ships."

"We will be down 100,000 [cruise ship] passengers this summer because we just don't have room for the ships," Williams said. He further explained that the City has been able to keep the property tax mill rate down in the past due to sales tax revenues directly related to the tourism industry.

To further understand the direct correlation between tourist spending and the City mill rate over the last twenty years one only need look at the statistics provided in William's handouts. Although the information he provided lists the yearly City mill rate for the last twenty years, for the sake of brevity the following information is listed for every five years since 1986.

1986  9.5
1991  8.1
1996  7.0
2001   6.4
2006   6.4* estimated

"All we want is to keep what we had," Williams appealed to the audience. "Anything we lose in sales tax we have to replace with a mill rate increase." Besides locally owned businesses that cater to tourists, the influx of stores owned by non-residents greatly contribute to the sales tax revenue.

In 2005, the estimated sales tax revenue was 9.1 million dollars, that figure is expected to drop to 8.8 million dollars for 2006 as a direct result of the lower number of ships visiting Ketchikan in the upcoming season. Once again, referring to the statistics provided in William's handouts, one can see the steady increase in sales tax revenue.

1990  5,321,895
1995  6,108,738
2000   6,862,729
2005   9,110,000 *estimated
2006   8,834,000 *estimated

Although the statistics above provide a clear picture of the city's financial dependency on tourism, there are still more facts to consider. "One of our main goals is to relieve congestion downtown, spread out the pedestrian traffic and provide a place for bus loading," said Williams.

The most important element to consider is the bond itself. Rob Skinner of Skinner Sales and Service assisted Williams in explaining the bond in simple lay person terms. "There are Municipal Bonds that use property tax as collateral," Skinner continued, "then there are Revenue Bonds."

jpg Luncheon

Greater Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday.
Photograph by Marie L. Monyak

The bond that the residents will be voting on is a Revenue Bond. Skinner explained, "This one [Revenue Bond] is through the Alaska Bond Bank, they are liable for it, they sell the bonds, the city is not liable. The payments do not come from property taxes but from port passenger fees which were, I believe, $5.1 million last year."

In fact, based on Proposition No.1, Resolution No. 06-2164, the Port Revenue Bonds of $38.5 million will be paid by revenues from the Ketchikan Port Fund, including proceeds from passenger wharfage fees charged to cruise ships arriving in the City.

Efforts are underway by the City to assist in educating the public on the facts so voters will be able to make a well informed decision as they go to the polls on Tuesday, April 11th. Last week the Ketchikan City Council approved $10,000 in funds to provide information to the public about the project and bond.

Another speaker at the luncheon was Kayce Arthun, State Director for the March of Dimes. Arthun offered a brief history of the March of Dimes stating, "The March of Dimes was founded to find a cure for polio and once the Salk vaccine was discovered, all babies since the 1950's have been vaccinated. Since then, the March of Dimes has moved on to preventing birth defects."

Ketchikan's annual Walk America will be held on Saturday, May 6th beginning at the Alaskan and Proud Market, making a loop through downtown and returning to A & P. Volunteers form teams with corporate sponsors to raise funds. Many individuals will raise additional amounts by holding bake sales, car washes and selling cutouts.

In past years Ketchikan has had a turn-out of 250 to 300 walkers. Arthun encouraged everyone in the audience to participate and for businesses to sponsor at least one team. As an added incentive, the one person that collects the highest amount will be rewarded with a round trip ticket for two from Alaska Airlines.

Next week's guest speaker at the Greater Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Wednesday, March 15th will be David Hauck, representing Ketchikan Packing, LLC.


Marie L. Monyak is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
A freelance writer is an uncommitted independent writer
who produces and sells articles to a publisher such as SitNews.

Contact Marie at mlmx1[at]

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