There’s an economic rebound occurring in Sitka, but it comes at a price – mainly in increased housing costs, and continued high fuel prices.
View the latest numbers from Sitka Trends, the quarterly newsletter of the Sitka Economic Development Association.
On the plus side, there is more money in Sitka now than in 2019, although it sometimes doesn’t feel that way with inflation running high.
A major source – obviously – is the increase in sales tax revenue. Sitka collected over $2-and-a-half million dollars more over the last fiscal year than it did in fiscal year 2021. That’s an increase of 19-percent, which has given local government a lot more flexibility to make major decisions around things like school funding, and the emergency replacement of the heat pumps at Blatchley Middle School.
Property tax has increased by less than $100,000 over the same period. Raw fish taxes – another major economic indicator – aren’t included in this report.
But it’s not just the city government that’s doing better. Per-capita income in Sitka is up since 2019 – by over $5,000 per person. That’s a bigger increase than seen in Juneau, Ketchikan, or even the entire state. Per capita income in Sitka is now roughly $76,000.
On the downside, driving is still expensive in Sitka – and it’s immediately clear how much so when you buy gas in Anchorage, where fuel has dropped to around $3.70, just $.30 higher than the national average. That’s a 20-percent drop for Anchorage in just the last year. Meanwhile in Sitka, the price of fuel has dropped only about 5-and-a-half percent, and is still over $5 per gallon. That’s worse than Juneau, where gas is going for a little more than $4.
The other big expense for Sitkans is housing, where costs have gone up significantly more than comparable communities like Ketchikan. Rent for three bedrooms in Sitka now averages about $1,870, compared to $1,815 in Ketchikan – but that Sitka rent is over 9-percent more than it was a year ago, while the rent in Ketchikan went up just 2-percent over the same period.
And finally Sitka’s population is down slightly – by just under 200 people since 2020. That’s consistent with the overall decline in Southeast Alaska, but contrary to the statewide trend. Alaska, as a whole, has gained over 7,000 people in the last two years.