Taxes, climate talk to highlight Assembly meeting

City moving toward putting sales tax, hotel tax initiatives on October ballot

Tonight’s City and Borough of Juneau Assembly is the first meeting since the end of June, and will set up larger decisions down the line while also including a debate on a national issue.

 

City Manager Rorie Watt will introduce two tax-related ordinances that could end up on the ballot in the upcoming Oct. 3 election.

The first ordinance is whether or not to renew the 1 percent sales tax increase, which is set to expire Sept. 30. Watt will introduce the ordinance tonight, and it will be open for public hearing at the Assembly’s next meeting on Aug. 21. If it reaches the ballot, voters will decide on whether or not to adopt both the extension of the tax and the priorities of how the money will be spent.

The Assembly Finance Committee worked out a list of where to spend the revenue from the 1 percent sales tax, focusing mostly on maintenance. The 1 percent sales tax would net the city $43.3 million, and with $3.7 million left over from the previous sales tax revenue, the total of available money is $47 million.

Of that $47 million, the city would allocate $13.5 million on wastewater maintenance and improvements. The other two biggest expenditures would be $5 million to Augustus Brown Pool maintenance and $5 million to maintenance at the Juneau School District.

The second ordinance at Monday’s meeting that could end up on the Oct. 3 ballot is the increase of a hotel bed tax in order to raise money for a new Juneau Arts and Culture Center (JACC). This would raise the tax that visitors spend on a hotel room from 7 percent to 9 percent (which would still be lower than Anchorage’s 12 percent tax), which would earn the city about $400,000 per year.

This would amount to about $2 million over the course of the five years, and at the July 15 Finance Committee meeting, Assembly member Loren Jones proposed that $1.6 million of that go to the construction of the new JACC.

The tax ordinances aren’t likely to take a great deal of time at the meeting, but one issue could prove to be much more contentious — whether or not the city should support the Paris Climate Agreement.

At the June 26 Assembly meeting, Assembly member Maria Gladziszewski proposed that Mayor Ken Koelsch sign an agreement along with numerous other mayors across the country in support of the Paris Agreement. The United States recently pulled out of the agreement, which sets goals for countries in tracking their emissions. In response, many U.S. mayors have pledged support for the agreement’s aims.

The Assembly voted in favor of having Koelsch also publicly stating his support, but multiple Assembly members — including Koelsch — thought the motion was merely to put the topic on the agenda for the next meeting.

Koelsch called for a reconsideration of the vote, which will occur at tonight’s meeting. The Assembly will vote on whether to reconsider the motion, and if the Assembly votes in favor of that, it will re-vote on whether to have Koelsch sign the statement. Koelsch said at the time and in a recent My Turn that he doesn’t want to spend meeting time discussing national politics.

“There are a number of issues, on the left and the right, that we can take up if it’s the will (of the Assembly),” Koelsch told The Empire in June. “I think we should be dealing with the challenges we have right in our city.”


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at alex.mccarthy@juneauempire.com.


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