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Common Council Searches for Money to Fill Budget Gaps

Bar graph with budget figures for the City of Nome.

The high cost of living in Nome may get just a bit higher for residents.

With just a few weeks left to balance the city budget and allot funds to Nome Public Schools, the common council held a work session Thursday to look for ways to raise money.

Rather than dip into savings to cover the budget gap, the council members are asking the city for estimated revenues from different sources. “I guess the direction we need from council is, on the revenue side: do we move forward with the alcohol, 8% alcohol and tobacco? Is that something that to bring forward? Some of these things that we can bring forward can change our revenue numbers,” asked City Manager Josie Bahnke.

Here’s what’s on the table: a slight bump in the mill rate…the unit used to calculate property taxes. There’s also been a proposal to raise the sales tax on alcohol and tobacco. To try and capture more money from Nome’s summer influx of laborers and tourists a seasonal tax could go to voters in the fall. And council members are considering getting rid of some tax exemptions, counting things like privately owned planes as taxable property.

All of these are small solutions to the larger problem of coping with a decline in state aid. And this budget cycle, that issue is clearest when it comes to school funding.

Much of the council’s budget debate so far has been just trying to make sense of how much the school needs to keep from cutting teachers and pay for existing programs. At the work session, councilman Stan Anderson told visiting school board members they will be seeing an increase in funding—though it’s not yet settled how much.

“The school’s going to get some money,” Anderson said towards the meeting’s end, “minimum it’s going to be $200,000. Maybe it’ll be more, if we can find more.”

Council members scheduled more budget work sessions for the weeks ahead. And are planning to go through the city budget line by line to see if there’s any more costs that can be cut before breaking the news to constituents that taxes may need to increase.