The Assembly will meet tonight in Harrigan Centennial Hall. Raven Radio will broadcast the meeting at 6 p.m. after Alaska News Nightly. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

The Sitka Assembly will hold its second to last meeting of the year tonight. And it kicks off with a discussion of how Sitka taxes property.

See agenda here: 161213_assemblymeeting

At 5 p.m., Assessor Wendy Lawrence will meet with the Assembly for a one hour work session.  She’ll present a resolution to change the property tax revaluation cycle from four years to six years. The department is also seeking $150,000 over a four year period to implement  a computer-assisted mass appraisal system, or CAMA. With this technology, Lawrence wants to increase efficiency of the assessing department and achieve greater equity in how properties are assessed. A letter-from-state-assessor Marty McGee said that Sitka’s current system is deficient.

Lawrence is also suggesting that the city exempt personal property, like boats and aircraft. Notes to the Assembly say that such a measure would free up the Assessing department’s time to focus on real property. The draft ordinance does not, however, exempt personal property for business and commercial jet aircraft. See draft ordinance here: ord-2016-45-property-tax-administrative-changes

The resolution, the ordinance, and approving the CAMA project are all on the agenda for the Assembly’s regular meeting, which begins at 6 p.m.

The Assembly will also hear a special report from Alaskan Command, who wants to conduct training exercises in the Gulf of Alaska next May. They will also receive an update from Sitka Community Hospital CEO Rob Allen and members of Sitka’s Health and Human Services Commission. The commission has been researching various public health policies, including a tax on sugar sweetened beverages, a fee for plastic bags, and raising the legal minimum age for tobacco sales to 21. 

In new business, the Assembly will get an update on the recruitment process for a new city administrator. Current city administrator Mark Gorman plans to step down by June 15th of next year. They will also consider a maximum penalty of $500 for using a cell phone while driving, a law put on the books in April

The Assembly will also review an ordinance to repeal changes to Sitka’s electric policy. The previous Assembly approved those changes in October.

On the phone with KCAW today, Assemblyman Aaron Bean – who co-sponsored the ordinance with Aaron Swanson – said that he supports the current electric rates, raised 7%. But he takes issue with the city doing away with door hangers to warn people of disconnections. He also opposes offering a special rate for large commercial users with interruptible loads. Bean said this isn’t fair to private fuel companies.

“If [the fuel companies] are not not delivering as much and still having the charge the same amount of fixed cost associated with each gallon that’s delivered, it’s going to bring the price of fuel up. And it may create a hardship for the fuel companies here. I don’t really see the benefit. I know we’re in a tough spot but it’s not the answer,” Bean said.

Last month, Petro Marine wrote a letter (petro-letter) to the Sitka Assembly condemning the interruptible rate and an excise tax on fuel (which the Assembly is not currently considering), both measures to increase hydroelectric consumption. The city is currently converting Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School and Sitka Community Hospital to electrical systems.

During a call-in show on Raven Radio yesterday, City Administrator Mark Gorman said that he recognizes the concern of Petro Marine and that the city is not trying to rid the market of fuel oil.

“The Assembly is not working against the business sector of Sitka. They’re working for all our community in terms of trying to make this a more affordable place. And it would be nice if we could have a more symbiotic relationship with the businesses. Especially in terms of those bringing oil into the community, so that we’re working in concert. And obviously there is some conflict here, but it’s not intentional,” Gorman said. 

At the end of their meeting, Sitka Assembly will also go into executive session to discuss the city’s rules for procuring contracts.

The Assembly meets tonight at 5 p.m. in their chambers at Harrigan Centennial Hall. Raven Radio will join the meeting live in progress at 6 p.m., after Alaska News Nightly.