A proposed ballot question to tax motor fuels in Sitka won’t get a second reading when the Sitka Assembly meets on Tuesday (7-13-21).
Assembly members Kevin Knox and Rebecca Himschoot sponsored the proposal, which the Assembly approved on first reading in June. If approved by voters, it would have added 3 cents to every gallon of marine and motor fuel sold at the pump. In an interview with KCAW on Monday (7-12-21) Himschoot said that money would have gone toward aging harbor and road infrastructure.
“I think everybody in town has noticed that our streets really need attention and those are something that we keep deferring year after year,” Himschoot said. “Kevin and I were looking for a way to get sort of a dedicated funding stream so we could at least incrementally, year-by-year, start chipping away at this deferred paving list year by year that we have in the city.”
Anchorage enacted a similar program- a 10 cent per gallon fuel tax– in 2017. But Himschoot and Knox pulled back on their proposal when they realized a similar measure would create problems for Sitka’s much smaller fuel economy.
“Kevin and I were able to meet with one of the fuel vendors in town,” Himschoot said. “You know, if you’re in Anchorage, you’re competing with a lot of different other vendors. This particular person brought to light how it would be difficult for his business to share some of the information we were looking for. And also talked about some of the competitiveness of the fuel market in Sitka, especially with some of the larger consumers like cruise ships”
Himschoot said with the new information, they realized they had to go back to the drawing board, but didn’t have enough time to draft a new ballot measure by the end of July, the deadline for items to be submitted for the municipal election ballot.
“That was just too tight a timeline to really turn this around this year,” she said.
While the fuel tax won’t be considered for this year’s municipal ballot, a ballot question about a new 5 percent retail tax on marijuana will be considered at tomorrow’s meeting, on second reading. If approved by the voters, the revenue from the new tax would go toward the Sitka School District’s student activities fund.