Pending LBC approval, and Legislature approval, City hopes to called 2.5 percent raw fish tax by 2016 or 2017 salmon season.
Commercial fishermen in the Nushagak District will not be paying a raw fish tax to Dillingham this year. The annexation was overturned last spring. But the City has re-filed its petition to annex with the Local Boundary Commission, starting what may be up to a yearlong review. KDLG’s Dave Bendinger has more:
Audio transcript below:
The City of Dillingham’s petition to annex the Nushagak commercial fishing district has been re-filed with the Local Boundary Commission. The city has been hoping to reinstate the 2.5 percent tax on raw fish since the annexation was overturned in a court ruling last spring. Rather than appeal the ruling, the city used another means to file the annexation, which took a vote of the council but not a popular election like in 2012.
"The Local Boundary Commission notified us that they had accepted our petition as 'filed'," said Dillingham Mayor Alice Ruby, speaking Wednesday. "What this means is that, for the last couple of months, first we had filed it, but they had some items that they had identified that needed to be addressed, which we did, then resubmitted it. Now this is the formal notice that the petition is filed."
Last fall the city council delayed on voting to advance the new petition for several months, with several council members advocating for time to study the feasibility of creating a new borough of western Bristol Bay communities. Mayor Ruby pushed the other way, saying the annexation and borough formation could move forward at the same time. With the council's delays, Ruby says the City now might not resume collecting the fish tax for another two or three seasons:
"Our original objective was to try to get this submitted and accepted by the LBC in time to present this for the January 2016 Legislative session," said Ruby. "We were delayed on the city approving it to be submitted to the LBC, so it is possible that this won't go to the Legislature until the 2017 session."
The amount the city could collect from the fish tax depends on the size of the harvest and the seasonal price, though modest estimates are in the $250-500,000 range annually. Ruby, who has long supported the idea of the collecting the fish tax, says that the need for the tax to help fund current city services is felt more during these years of smaller state funding:
Probably the best I can say is, we're not looking to try and expand stuff necessarily with those fish tax dollars, but trying to preserve what we have. A lot of that has to do with harbor operations, police, public safety, landfill, and obviously schools. But all of those things are probably going to see more severe cuts down the road as revenue declines. So the City was trying to be proactive and generate another source of income so we wouldn't suffer quite so much every time there's a downturn at the state."
With notice that the LBC has accepted the petition, a public process and comment period has been opened through October 1.