Head Tax in Sitka?

Sitkas’s assembly has delayed a vote until August 9 that may eventually lead to a $1-perpassenger “wharfage fee.” John Stein, Sitka’s administrator, said the assembly was due to vote July 26.

The proposed $1 fee is being introduced at the same time a Sitka resident is collecting signatures – 664 are needed – for a $5 per-passenger tax initiative, which is what Juneau collects, that may make it onto the city’s October 2005 ballot.

“A group of citizens came to the assembly and said they wanted to impose a fee to pay for shoreside costs that the cruise industry generates,” Stein said. “The assembly has said that it is reluctant to do that. So we introduced an ordinance to get a tax on the books to avoid the initiative process.”

So how can two head taxes be introduced at the same time? ”Therein lies the rub,” Stein said. “We amended the ordinance to say that if the citizen’s initiative passes, our ordinance would not go into effect. If it does not pass, our ordinance will go into effect.”

Stein said Sitka doesn’t want to offend the cruise industry, but does think a $1 tax is fair. Meanwhile, the city’s director of economic development is attempting to mediate the situation, calling for meetings between Sitka residents and the cruise industry to help define what the tax would be used for. “The assembly doesn’t like the idea of a $5 tax,” Stein said. “But we can’t do anything about them getting the signatures.”

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