VOCAL EXERCISES - Artist in the Schools instructor Sarah Branton of Cherry Creek, Colorado, leads an exercise in the Sitka High School band room this morning as she teaches students how to improve their volume. Branton will be here all week working with choirs at Blatchley Middle School and Sitka High. Her instruction is part of the effort to rebuild school  choir programs and numbers following the pandemic. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

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Daily Sitka Sentinel

Assembly Approves Budget, Rate Hikes


Sentinel Staff Writer

The Assembly adopted budgets for the city general fund and enterprise funds, with projections for modest increases in revenue and higher rates for customers on monthly bills for water, waste water, solid waste, electricity and boat moorage in city harbors.

The vote was 6-0 on both budget ordinances, which also covered internal service funds and special revenue funds. Present were Tim Pike, Kevin Mosher, JJ Carlson, Chris Ystad, Thor Christianson and Mayor Steven Eisenbeisz.

Assembly members said they weren’t happy about the rate increases, but that they were needed because of inflation, deferred maintenance, materials cost increases, and unfunded state and federal mandates. The city cites the same reasons, plus new projects, for a general fund budget 14 percent higher than last year’s.

Chris Ystad said the increases in user fees are consistent with what he’s seeing in reviewing other budgets, including his own and in nonprofit organizations.

“I would say that these rate increases are right in line with what these other organizations are incurring,” he said. “As much as I don’t want to see rate increases, I think we have to, to stay on top of these enterprise funds.”

The rate increases are 3 percent for electricity, 6 percent for water, 8.5 percent for wastewater, 6.75 for wastewater, and 7.3 percent for moorage.

Others had similar comments.

“You don’t really think ‘raise rates, great idea!’ But inflation has been hitting everybody including the city,” Tim Pike said. “Absent other alternative funding sources I think this is what we unfortunately have to do to make our budgets work, so I agree reluctantly, but understand entirely and we certainly have spent a lot of time listening and understanding the budgets, and asking questions of staff as to why we’re at where we’re at.”

The $42.6 million general fund budget projects a $17,641 surplus at the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2024. The budget projects a 3 percent increase in sales tax revenue, “which is likely conservative given the growth in tourism and continuing high inflation.” Any surplus at the end of the year in the general fund are recommended to be transferred into the sinking fund for infrastructure, but the Assembly makes that decision at the end of the year.

City Finance Director Melissa Haley said today that the budget process this year aligned services and expenditures with the new strategic plan approved by the Assembly. One example is a $750,000 item in the general fund budget for a housing study in response to a strategic plan goal to “Develop a plan to improve housing options for all in Sitka.”

The rate increases for city services will go into effect July 1.

On the same date, Sitka’s 1 percent summer sales tax will end and the sales tax will be 5 percent year round. The finance department said higher-than-expected sales tax revenues from the past year, and reimbursement payments from the state, have provided enough funds to cover remaining debt service payments on the school bonds.

In other business at Tuesday night’s meeting the Assembly:

– passed on first reading an ordinance to allow artists other than musicians to apply for permits to perform in public areas. It was intended to address youth performers who wanted to get a permit to share other artistic endeavors with tourists, and busk at Harrigan Centennial Hall. It will be up for second and final reading June 13.

– under the Persons to be Heard agenda item, heard a number of complaints from taxi drivers about the police department and the difficulties operators are having this year.

– named JJ Carlson as the Assembly representative on the Baranof Elementary School renaming committee.

– approved leases at the Marine Service Center to Seafood Producers Cooperative and North Pacific Seafoods. Each lease will be $13,000 per month, for 10 years, with two five-year extensions. The lessees must reserve 10 percent of their leased space for the public, and the leases have 2 percent increases built in.

– approved a resolution to apply for a federal Office of Justice program to purchase bulletproof vests for the police department, with a 50-50 match between the city and state.

– appointed Callie Simmons to the Sitka Library Commission.

– approved a $50,050 supplemental appropriation, which combined with the $275,000 in the current city budget, will  cover the cost of a new truck to use for ditch clearing, snow and ice management.

– approved a $10,000 supplemental appropriation from the city’s E-911 account, to install the Mud Bay radio repeaters, which will increase emergency radio communications to additional areas. Those include Katlian Bay, and the Cove Marina, Granite Creek quarry and the Sitka Sound Cruise Terminal. The grant funds available were $37,000 and the equipment and work will cost $44,732, so the supplemental appropriation was needed, the Assembly was told.


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At a Glance

(updated 9-12-2023)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 8:57 a.m. Tuesday, September 12.

New cases as of Tuesday: 278

Total cases (cumulative) statewide – 301,513

Total (cumulative) deaths – 1,485

Case Rate per 100,000 – 38.14

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

COVID in Sitka

The Sitka community level is now "Low.'' Case statistics are as of Tuesday.

Case Rate/100,000 – 152.50

Cases in last 7 days – 13

Cumulative Sitka cases – 3,575

Deceased (cumulative) – 10

The local case data are from Alaska DHSS.






September 2003

Sitka Tribe of Alaska is “upset and disturbed” about the Senate appropriations bill that cuts spending for Alaska tribal courts, STA Vice Chairman Gil Truitt said today. He was referring to Sen. Ted Stevens’ move to divert Department of Justice grants from tribal courts and tribal police officers to fund the Village Public Safety Officer program.



September 1973

Photo caption: Receiving service pins at a Carpenters Union Local 466 dinner meeting at the Kiksadi Club were, from left, Arthur Littlefield, Alvin Helm, Harley Finch, Dave Gibson, Gerald Hughes, Fred Nelson, Walter Moy, Edward Nelson, William Sutton and Don Stromme.


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