VERY FAR FROM HOME

Jim Moore is on his second deployment to Afghanistan with a Special Forces (Green Beret) unit from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Click here to find out where other Skagwayans are serving in the Armed Forces. Photo courtesy of the Moore Family

It’s not really a tax revolt
People just revolted by rise in assessments

By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS
There have been a lot of appeal forms flying off the counter at City Hall. Staff can’t put a finger on an exact number of disgruntled landowners and homeowners, but they may be legion.
The shock came two weeks ago when residents received city property assessments showing a 50-percent jump.
They may be surprised again to learn, City Manager Bob Ward said in a phone interview, that assessments and taxes are entirely different and one has nothing to do with the other.
“The state Constitution requires assessments to be as accurate a reflection of market value as possible,” said Ward. “When assessments go up it’s based on recent sales, and there certainly have been sales lately that have progressed in price.”
He explained that appraisals are a specific look at a specific property and assessments are a blanket look at all properties in an area.
Ward said that while assessments have gone up 50 percent, taxes are dependent on the city’s budget. If the budget expands, taxes rise.
Which most likely will occur, Ward said, because of the city adding the Skagway Medical Clinic to its civic responsibilities. Last year it supported the clinic with a $200,000 subsidy. How much an increase is not certain because the budget was presented to the Council for its first reading last night after this paper was printed.
“I don’t care who runs the clinic, the city will be putting more money into it,” Ward said. “Taxes will go up to support the medical services the community has come to expect.
“If this year’s budget is the same as last year’s, the mill rate will go down, but people’s property taxes won’t go down, they’ll pay exactly the same taxes as they did last year.
“If there are significant transactions with significant values here, then all properties in Skagway will go up,” he said.
Charles Horan, of Horan, Corak & Co. of Sitka, the firm that does the city’s assessments, sent an explanatory letter to all property owners April 15. By phone, he said he didn’t want his company coming off as “the bad guy.”
Because sales data has been limited over the last few years, there have been few significant changes to assessments. However, for 2003, data showed the company estimate to be about 50 percent less on land. Lots formerly assessed at $31,200 were selling for $50,000, and improvements (houses, garages, etc.) were behind 10 percent.
Horan said his study indicates the numbers are still somewhat below market value, because Skagway has a “moderately growing economy and persistent low interest rates for real estate loans.”
Real estate values hit more than people’s pocketbooks, he points out.
“The ratio of how close the assessment is to sales impacts the state revenue sharing and education contributions from the state. Therefore, the state assessor checks this each year in making its true value determination to the Department of Community and Economic Development. It is very important to the city’s revenue that assessments be as close as possible to market,” he wrote.
He stresses that everyone was treated equally in the process.
Residents have until May 2 at 4 p.m. to submit an appeal form to City Hall to protest their assessment to the Board of Equalization. The board of City Council members will meet May 29 in Council Chambers at 7 p.m. Real estate tax bills are mailed July 1 and tax payments are due by 5 p.m. Sept. 2.

Skagway Council supports improved ferry service
Resolution supporters crowd Council chambers

By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS
In a 4-1 vote, the Skagway City Council passed a resolution supporting improved ferry service and opposing construction of a road from Juneau to Haines or Skagway at its April 17 regular meeting.
City Councilmembers J. Frey, Dan Henry, Mike Korsmo, Mike Catsi voted for the measure and Councilmember Dave Hunz against it. Councilmember John Mielke was absent.
Hunz said he supported the road but offered no reason.
“When the Klondike Highway went in, we were an end and an origination,” said Henry, who was concerned the road from Juneau would make it easier to lump Skagway into the Haines Borough.
Mayor Tim Bourcy said the reality of the state of Alaska is that it’s not in a good place financially.
“It’s possible the Alaska Delegation could fund the project, but where would maintenance money come from?” he asked.
Bourcy said people should remember that just last year the city lost funding for some state roads here.
Supporters of the measure crowded council chambers and testified during the public comment section. They were in the majority at the meeting, although several people said those in favor of a road would not testify in public because they were afraid what people would think of them, or that people wouldn’t like them anymore.
Tom Cochran spoke of the time his sons were in a four-wheeler accident and had to be medevaced to Whitehorse, and there was a delay in the ambulance switch at the Canadian border, and that the road would make for an easier medevac. John Tronrud said the ferry system was an inefficient, unreliable means of transportation.
Those against the road cited the visible scars the road would leave to be seen from the water, affecting the cruise ship experience. It was pointed out that cruise lines are actively looking for alternative ports under their control, even to the point of developing their own island. Quality of life issues also play into it, said Ken Russo, with the Dewey Trail system an important recreation site for people to get away from the summer crowds.
Jan Wrentmore said she was afraid the road was part of Goldbelt’s long-term development plan. Goldbelt is Juneau’s Native corporation.
“Road service eliminates ferry service entirely,” said Wrentmore. “There will be a loss of jobs in the ferry service and in the airport service.”
With the road bypassing Skagway’s downtown, she thinks the cruise ships will bus people up from Berners Bay to take the train, leaving them no time in town.
Cory Thole, who helping organize road opposition, said he collected 110 signatures of residents against the road, and presented it to the Council. He said there would be increased crime with the road because it would give people an escape route that didn’t go through a border station or onto a ferry.
“It’s a safe town for kids to run around in,” said Averill Harp.

NEW CLINIC HEAD

Shawn and Nicole Keef flank Skagway Medical Corp. board member Karen Gee and Skagway Medical Clinic Chief of Staff Kendall Simm at a reception for the clinic administrator applicant. April 15. Mr. Keef accepted the position, and the City Council approved his appointment at its April 17 meeting. – DL

International Folk Fest tonight!

Don’t miss the 13th Annual International Folk Festival tonight, April 25, at 7 p.m. at the Skagway Presbyterian Church, starring the performers from the Juneau Folk Festival and the Yukon. Tickets are $8, seniors are free as are children under 12 when accompanied by adults.
Bring a food dish to the traditional potluck at 5:30 p.m. and meet featured musicians: “The Glacial Erratics,” Buddy Tabor, Kevin Barr of “The Undertakin’ Daddies,” Art Johns, Frank Delaplaine, Tony Scott Pearce, Deb Steidel, Barb Kalen, Eric McDowell, Jerry Carlson, Candice Cahill, Peter and Mary Beattie, and Peter Milner’s bluegrass band, “Disturbing the Peace.”

OTHER SPRING EVENTS!

Make a Clean Sweep in May
Clean Sweep, the city’s annual, volunteer clean-up of the city will happen May 3. If you have a truck, bring it and yourself to the ferry terminal at 9 a.m. for assignments. Volunteers with no truck will be matched up with a driver.
There will be a free lunch at the Elks Lodge 12:30-2:30 p.m. and great door prizes will be drawn during lunch. Once again, the Kone Kompany will donate one free ice cream cone for each volunteer, but you must sign up at the ferry terminal to receive your coupon.
Drop-offs of bagged garbage will be accepted at the Rec. Center 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at no charge. Residents must take personal garbage to the Rec. Center themselves as there will be no curbside pick-ups.
No appliances, large items, scrap metal, hazardous materials, construction debris, or commercial drop-offs will be accepted this year. There will be a hazardous waste pick-up in July.
Please note that the incinerator will be closed to the public on the day of Clean Sweep.

Go circumpolar at Skagway’s film fest
The Second Annual Skagway’s Alaskan Film Festival has gone circumpolar, featuring four Canadian and Greenland Inuit films spanning eight decades from the early documentary “Nanook of the North” to 2001’s “Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner.”
May 8, the festival opens with “Smilla’s Sense of Snow,” a 1997 film about a woman of American/Greenland Inuit parentage who follows her instincts after the only person she has befriended, a 6-year-old Inuit boy, is found dead. It’s a gripping murder/mystery with twists and turns, dead-ending in an ice cave. This film will be shown at the National Park auditorium.
A double-header is scheduled for May 9 at the Eagles Hall with a refreshment intermission.
“Kabloonak: The Stranger,” is the story of Robert Flaherty, the “Father of the Documentary,” who made the landmark film, “Nanook of the North.”
“Nanook of the North,” still resonates with today’s audiences as a glimpse into the traditional Inuit way of life. Nanook’s genuine character shines through it all, and thanks to his involvement in the project, the world has a record of his world.
“Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner,” is a 2001 Canadian film by Director Zacharias Kunuk that has won many national and international awards. It will be seen on the big screen at the NPS on May 10.
Based on an ancient Inuit legend, the film was produced by an Inuit film company on the tiny island of Igloolik in the north Baffin region. The legend has been told for countless generations to teach young Inuits the danger of setting personal desire above the needs of the group.
This is a three-hour film, and an extra show will be added if necessary.
All films will be shown at 7 p.m. Please be aware that none of these films are suitable for children.
The film festival committee thanks the City of Skagway, Skagway Convention & Visitors Bureau, Skaguay News Depot, Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, and Eagles Aerie #25 for support.

Celebrate Spring!
The Skagway Medical Clinic is hosting a “Celebrate Spring!” event on its grounds at Broadway and Eleventh on May 10, 11:30 a.m.-whenever. Everyone is welcome.
Join in for fun moments: Skagway School Clothesline Art Exhibit; free food and drinks sponsored by the American Legion, salads and desserts sponsored by the Emblem Club and Eagles Auxiliary; and Beer Garden sponsored by Moe’s Frontier Bar.
Noon, 2003 version of the May Pole Dance with gymnasts from the Rec. Center; 1 p.m. Potato sack race, three-legged race, egg toss, and tug-of-war, sponsored by the Skagway Chamber of Commerce; 1:30 p.m. Milk carton boat race at the creek next to the clinic; 2 p.m. Pet Parade; 2:30 p.m. Craft Fun! Face painting, construction of crowns for the May Day King and Queen, and T-shirt art, sponsored by Heger Construction; 3 p.m. Open invitation to join the drumming circle; 3:30 p.m. until ? Street Dance with Perry Ford and His Band.

For coverage of these events, see the May 16, 2003 issue.

OTHER STORIES

• SKAGWAY SOLDIERS in the Armed Services

• SENIOR TRIP to Hawaii with Lucie Straub

• OBITUARY - Robert Lee Rapuzzi

• OPINION & LETTERS - Speaking up, West White Pass should remain nameless, Two views on Juneau Access

• FISH THIS! is back for the season, Yukon River Quest entries due May 31

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