The Kodiak City Council on Tuesday will consider several topics, including whether to allow fishermen to sell their harvests directly to consumers in city ports.

City staff is seeking the council’s input on the potential city code revision. 

The discussion comes after a May 2016 public sentiment petition collected 67 signatures. 

“We believe that properly licensed commercial fishermen following all regulations should have the ability to provide directly to the consumer. The ability for seafood consumers to directly purchase from harvesters will strengthen our island community by providing a healthy, local sustainable food source and will increase economic opportunity for commercial fishermen and increase tax revenue for the City of Kodiak,” the petition states. 

According to a staff memo to councilors, the change could help meet council goals of economic development and downtown revitalization.

It would also allow vessel owners from other Kodiak communities to come into Kodiak to directly sell their catch, the memo states. 

The draft ordinance, as currently phrased, specifies the processes and requirements for seafood harvesters wishing to sell their product directly to the public. A city permit would be required, and the seller would also have to prove they have the necessary state and federal licenses in order to receive the city permit. 

The harbormaster would have authority to designate location and times where the sales are allowed to occur. 

Sellers would be required to collect sales tax on all sales.


Sales tax

Potential changes to the city sales tax also appear on the Tuesday work session agenda ahead of the introduction of three sales tax ordinances at the Thursday regular meeting. 

One ordinance would increase the sales tax cap from $750 to $3,000. Currently, consumers only have to pay the city’s 7 percent sales tax rate on the first $750 of a transaction. If the draft ordinance is approved, it would require consumers to pay the 7 percent rate on the first $3,000 of a transaction, moving the per transaction cap from $52.50 to $210 for large purchases. 

A second ordinance under consideration would exempt commercial and residential property rentals from the first sales tax ordinance, leaving the cap on these property rentals at $750.

The third sales tax ordinance to be considered this week would eliminate a 2 percent discount currently given to businesses that file and pay sales tax to the city on time. 

If approved as currently written, the changes would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018. 

The proposed changes come as the councilors try to counter losses from state and federal funding and from declining sale tax revenue. The city’s budget deficit has grown to over $2.8 million, according to City Manager Mike Tvenge. 

The measures currently on the table were part of long-running discussions on a number of revenue generating measures. 

Measures to end the senior sales tax exemption or convert it to a rebate program were dropped after public outcry at a recent work session.

Councilors also considered increased taxes on tobacco and alcohol sales. According to Tvenge, the council will consider implementation of a tobacco tax at their Oct. 10 work session. However, in researching the options, staff found that state statute prohibits sales taxes applied solely to alcohol.

Some councilors have also expressed support for requiring that online retailers selling to residents of Kodiak collect taxes from those sales. However, federal law stipulates that a state cannot tax online retailers if that retailer does not have a physical presence within the state, Tvenge said. 


Single-use plastic bag ban

The council will again discuss a potential ban on distribution of single-use plastic shopping bags.

Kodiak Island Borough’s Solid Waste Advisory Board recommended the ban. However, because most retailers are within city limits, the board decided to first approach the city with the draft ordinance. 

On Tuesday, councilors will review their own ordinance. As currently worded, the prohibition would go into effect on Feb. 14, 2018. 

The draft exempts bags used to package produce, bakery goods or small hardware items, or to prevent leaks from foods or plants. Laundry, dry cleaning and newspaper bags would be allowed, as would bags sold for use off store premises. 

The work session will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the Kodiak Public Library. 

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