Dillingham council to vote on annexation exemptions
March 2nd, 2012 | Carey Restino
If Dillingham voters approve annexation of the waters of the Nushagak Commercial Salmon District in April, fishermen who own property within the city of Dillingham will get a break on the potential 2.5 percent fish tax set for concurrent approval.
The exemption, if approved Thursday, would allow for a 50 percent refund of raw fish tax paid by the property owner, with the total refund capped at half the property owner's tax bill.
The proposed annexation includes nearly 400 square miles of commercial fishing waters and 3 square miles of land in the Nushagak Bay and part of Wood River. If approved, the city plans to levy a 2.5 percent sales tax, which should bring in about $700,000 per year based on recent figures. The funds would boost the city's current operating budget by about 10 percent, said Dan Forster, Dillingham City Manager.
A list of other exemptions were also added to the ordinance levying sales tax on the sale of raw fish, all contingent on the voter ratification of the annexation area. For example, the sale of bait is not subject to tax in the proposed annexation area, and city sales tax shall not be levied against any other sales in the area — fuel, for example.
In response to concerns that the fish tax would eat into the slim profits of some fishermen, the council enacted exemptions. One such exemption would allow any fisherman who is eligible for food stamps or qualifies for the low-income permit to receive a rebate of half of their fish tax. Another exemption was put in place for the sale of raw fish caught by a permit holder if that permit holder is a licensed catcher-processor and purchases less than $10,000 annually in raw fish.
Dillingham city officials also deemed it unnecessary to enforce some other city codes in the area of potential annexation. If brought into the city, fishermen operating in the new areas would not have to comply with city laws pertaining to smoking in public places, curfews, the discharge of firearms or explosives.
The city acted on a two resolutions pertaining to the use of the revenues from the fish tax. A fund set up to invest in activities that support fishing will draw 5 percent of the revenues from the fish tax in addition to the $100,000 that is already earmarked for that purpose, Forster said. An additional 3 percent was set aside to study the formation of a borough.
"While borough formation is compatible with annexation, the city believes that creating a borough is in the long-term best interest of the region and has been mentioned as such by many of the surrounding communities," said Forster.
The exemptions and allocations of funds proposed and enacted by the city, should annexation be voted into place, are in response to concerns posed by members of surrounding communities during the annexation process.
"I think of these changes and amendments as demonstrating that the city council listened during the consultation period and, where possible, acted to mitigate impacts and maximize benefits," Forester said.
The annexation process, which has been in the works for several years, was approved by the Local Boundary Commission in mid-December, but city council members chose to put the issue to a vote of the people before expanding the city's boundaries.
The exemptions are set to be approved at the council's meeting tonight, with the vote on annexation set for April 10th.