Tonight (07-26-16), the Assembly will receive progress reports on bulk water, hiring a new city attorney, and revisit increasing Sitka’s property taxes.

When the Assembly meets tonight (07-26-16), they’ll continue discussing Sitka’s property tax structure and uncapping the six-mill rate for the first time in two decades.

Here is the Assembly Agenda for 07/26/16

Inside the Assembly packet is a breakdown of the general fund budget gap for next year, which totals $2.5 million.

Spreadsheet FY18 General Fund Budget Decision Points

Pictured is a school bus, illustrating how if city finances were a moving vehicle, the wheels need a new source of air. For that, the Citizens’ Task Force suggested the Assembly increase the millage rate, which would require a vote from the public.

Here is Raven Radio’s previous coverage of the Assembly’s quest to uncap the mill rate
The case for uncapping Sitka’s property tax (Dec. 9, 2015)
Grand Bargain would affect grocery bill, property taxes (March 21, 2016)
Amid revenue crisis, Assembly places chips on property taxes (May 11, 2016)
Assembly looks to budget-driven property tax (June 28, 2016)

The ballot proposition – which remains in draft form – may incorporate policies to reduce the cost of living in Sitka, such as eliminating the sales tax on groceries and creating a property tax exemption for residential homeowners of up to $50,000. “These are all very, very – in my view – progressive things to do in this community,” said City Administrator Mark Gorman.

Though a budget-driven mill rate has the chance to provide Sitka a more sustainable source of revenue, Gorman says the challenge is making that case to public. A ballot proposition could appear before voters as early as the October 4th municipal election

“Property tax initiatives in the last two decades have all failed. My gut tells me that if we put a property tax initiative before the public in the next six months, that without doing anything, about 33% of Sitkans would say, ‘I think that’s a good idea.’ What we need is to get another 18% to say, ‘I think it’s a good idea too,’ for it to pass,” Gorman said.

The Assembly will receive an update on efforts to hire a new city attorney, as well as bulk water contracts with Alaska Bulk Water, Inc. and Arctic Blue Waters, Inc. The Assembly will also sign-off on several rate increases written into the FY17 budget. They will also pass – on second and final reading – revisions to asset management for Sitka’s permanent fund.

The Sitka Assembly meets at 6 p.m. tonight in Room 229 at UAS. Raven Radio will join the meeting live in progress after Alaska News Nightly.