Assembly to finalize the budgets of the borough and the school district of Ketchikan

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In this 2019 file photo, the seal of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough is displayed in the borough’s meeting rooms. (Eric Stone/KRBD)

The Ketchikan Borough Assembly is due to finalize the Borough and School District budgets Monday evening. The assembly’s spending plan would provide all but about $350,000 of the $12.2 million in borough funding requested by the Ketchikan School Board.

The school district’s budget request asked for about $1.1 million more this year than last to pay off a shortfall in its health insurance fund. School board members presented it as a one-time request necessitated by pandemic-related healthcare expenses.

But at the last meeting of the assembly, some said they were skeptical. Assemblyman Jeremy Bynum said he was concerned that without structural changes to the district’s health insurance program – including premium hikes – the program would require continued injections of cash.

Assemblyman David Landis proposed the $350,000 cut as a compromise. The reduction allows the budget to pass by a simple majority. The request for full funding would have required a two-thirds supermajority to allow the borough’s education fund to drop below the $2 million minimum balance.

The updated funding request is put to the vote on Monday. As written, the borough assembly’s education funding measure would leave the school district’s $48 million spending authority in place. This would allow the school district to seek outside funding to fill the gap.

The borough’s non-school budget is also up for a final vote on Monday. The spending plan was left unchanged by the assembly at its last meeting. Borough Mayor Rodney Dial has pledged to veto a grant of about $1,600 to a local LGBTQ organization included in the budget. This is part of a grant package of approximately $390,000 to local organizations.

In other matters, the Ketchikan Borough Assembly should finalize a measure increasing the mayor’s and assembly’s salaries. The borough mayor’s salary would double to $1,000 per month, plus $75 for each meeting. The assembly’s monthly salary would increase from $150 to $350 per month, and members would receive an additional $150 per meeting. The increases are expected to cost just under $60,000 and come into effect after the municipal elections this fall. These would be the first raises for the mayor and the assembly since 1999, according to the borough.

The Ketchikan assembly meets at 5:30 p.m. Monday in the White Cliff Building on First Avenue. It is possible to speak at the beginning of the meeting and during the public hearings. The meeting is streamed live on the Borough’s website and broadcast on local cable channels.

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