Juneau ballot measures will ask voters to approve funding for arts and culture upgrades

This design rendering shows how the new Juneau Arts and Culture Center may appear from the Andrew P. Kashevaroff Building.
This design rendering shows how the new Juneau Arts and Culture Center may appear from the Andrew P. Kashevaroff Building. (Courtesy Juneau Arts and Humanities Council)

Three questions related to updating and improving Juneau’s arts and culture venues will appear on the municipal ballot.

On Oct. 1, Juneau voters will decide whether to approve a 2% increase to the hotel bed tax for 15 years. The city intends to use the money generated to fund improvements to Centennial Hall.

Voters will also determine whether the city should issue up to $7 million in bonds to further fund upgrades to Centennial Hall and — separately — if it should provide a $4.5 million grant to contribute to the construction of a new Juneau Arts and Culture Center.

The Juneau Assembly unanimously approved each of the ballot measures at Monday’s meeting.

Several community members, many of them members of the New JACC Partnership Board of Directors who have advocated for the ballot measure, testified in favor.

Board co-Chair Bruce Botelho said afterward their campaign will now focus on building support between now and Oct. 1.

“We’ll be upping our game in terms of making sure people are aware of the project and what we believe it will do, not only for the arts, but also I think more generally for the economy of the community,” Botelho said.

The $4.5 million grant for the new JACC would be paid for from sales tax revenue. The hope is that the grant would attract additional private investment in the project.

Supporters say the estimated $26.4 million project to replace the current building will attract more talent and business opportunity to Juneau and be a boon for the local economy.

Dennis DeWitt testified against the grant, saying he supports a new arts and culture center but thinks the private sector should step up to fund it.

“This is a want, it’s not a need. We’ve already put in $1 million worth of sales tax. We’re going to give them the property. We’ve taken care of some building issues,” Dewitt said. “If they want to go out and do it with private funds, God bless them!”

The city owns both Centennial Hall and the current JACC. Both are managed by the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council.

The money raised for Centennial Hall through city bonds would go toward upgrading the aging building’s HVAC system, lighting and sound systems and other projects. If voters approve raising the hotel bed tax rate from 7% to 9%, the city may end up using the money raised to pay down that bond debt. The city estimates the tax rate increase would raise an additional $440,000 annually.

Similar ballot questions proposed last year failed to make it onto the local ballot.

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