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Nome Common Council suspends summer sales tax increase for third year

four people sitting at a conference desk. The woman in the middle is wearing a face mask.
Nome Deputy Police Chief Wade "Gray" Harrison speaks to the Nome Common Council. April 25, 2022. Photo by Sean Milligan

The Nome Common Council voted on April 25 to suspend Nome’s seasonal sales tax increase during the months of May, June, July and August. That means the sales tax rate will remain at 5% rather than increasing to 7% as described in the Code of Ordinances of Nome. This is the third year in a row that the council has suspended the sales tax increase.

The vote passed 5 to 1. Council Member Jerald Brown cast the dissenting vote, saying that suspending the sales tax increase shifts the tax burden to property owners in Nome.

“Summer months have a significant amount of visitors in Nome that use services. And the thought was that we could get a little more money out of those folks as opposed to sticking everything on the citizens of Nome. Basically … we would be trading off sales tax versus property tax, because those are the only two significant revenue sources for the city,” Brown said.

Sales tax increases hit lower-income residents harder, Council Member Mark Johnson said.

“Because of those offsets, the increase of fuel (prices), … by lowering the sales tax, it’ll help lower that cost for people. And this especially affects people who cannot travel down to Anchorage and purchase their goods. … It’s a bigger effect on the lower-income folks, and that’s one of the reasons I’m going to continue to vote for continuing at 5%,” Johnson said.

And changing sales tax rates can present challenges for small businesses, Council Member Scot Henderson pointed out.

“You know, making sure that their reports are accurate, making sure their customers are informed of the changes. And this council can look at — if … the sales tax revenue is not sufficient — maybe making it five and a half or something like that, and I would be open to those discussions,” Henderson said.

The council also voted to approve a new contract between the City of Nome and its employees. Nome Police Department Administration Sergeant/Accreditation Manager Wade “Gray” Harrison, who serves as union president for the City of Nome Employees Association, spoke in favor of the new contract.

An indoor meeting with 3 people sitting and one man speaking from a podium
Wade “Gray” Harrison (right) speaks to the Nome Common Council. April 25, 2022. Photo by Sean Milligan

“This agreement will resolve the city of its current issues, promote recruitment, retention and longevity with the city of Nome,” Harrison said, adding that the CNEA unanimously ratified the new contract.

City Manager Glenn Steckman described some of the changes.

“One is to recognize that employees that are at the lower pay rung of the city come up to a more livable wage. We also looked at trying to attract more police officers, which is a constant problem in the community. And this raises those salaries up significantly. And also to recognize the inflation impacts of the union employees that work here day in and day out,” Steckman said.

In other business, the council allocated $25,000 toward the hiring of a grant writer and authorized the purchase of an ATV for the Nome Ambulance Department. The council also awarded contracts to provide gravel for city roads and the port pad. Q Trucking Garage will provide the gravel for the city roads, and Tumet Industries will provide the gravel for the port pad.

The Nome Common Council will meet next on Monday, May 9, at 7 p.m.

Image at top: From left to right: Youth representative Paris Hebel, Council Member Meghan “Sigvanna” Topkok, Council Member Adam Martinson, and Council Member Doug Johnson at the April 25 Nome Common Council meeting. Photo by Sean Milligan.

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