It’s official: Hotel bed tax and Centennial Hall bonds approved, funding for new JACC rejected

Juneau election workers check absentee and questioned ballots in a conference room at City Hall on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019. From left to right: Hali Denton, Andy Peterson, Beth McEwen and Betty Cook.

Juneau election workers check absentee and questioned ballots in a conference room at Juneau City Hall on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019. From left to right: Hali Denton, Andy Peterson, Beth McEwen and Betty Cook. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

The results of last week’s municipal election are now official, but the way the approved ballot propositions are implemented could still change.

Juneau voters approved an increase to the local hotel bed tax and municipal debt to fund improvements to Centennial Hall, but soundly rejected a city grant to help build a new arts and culture center.

Even though voters passed two out of three propositions, City Manager Rorie Watt said the Juneau Assembly has the final say on appropriating city funds.

The interior of Centennial Hall. Staff say the city-owned building is in need of updates to its HVAC, sound and lighting systems. (Photo by Adelyn Baxter/KTOO)

The interior of Centennial Hall. (Photo by Adelyn Baxter/KTOO)

Proposition 1 authorizes a 2% increase to the local hotel bed tax for 15 years. That’s expected to raise $440,000 annually, which is intended to be used for Centennial Hall improvements. But the Assembly could decide to lower the tax rate or change the length of time it lasts.

It’s likewise with Proposition 2, which authorizes the city to take on $7 million in debt to finance repairs to Centennial Hall.

“They are not required to sell $7 million in bonds,” Watt said. “They could sell a lesser amount, or they could pay the debt not out of property tax.”

The Assembly also doesn’t need voter approval to appropriate money toward a new Juneau Arts and Culture Center, even though that was the question posed to voters with Proposition 3.

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. (Image courtesy Juneau Arts and Humanities Council)

“There is no legal requirement for the Assembly to consult with the voters on that, they just thought it was prudent to do so,” Watt said. “There’s no legal requirement for the Assembly to follow the advice of the voters.”

Still, he pointed out, the Assembly is unlikely to make significant changes to what voters decided.

Supporters of the New JACC have said they will continue working to replace the aging building, with or without city support. As of Oct. 9, they have raised about 21% of their $26.4 million goal, according to the project’s website.

The results of the Oct. 1 election were certified Tuesday by the Canvass Review Board at City Hall. Voter turnout was 31.4%.

The outcome of the Assembly and Juneau School Board races remained unchanged.

Wade Bryson, Carole Triem and Greg Smith each won a three-year term on the Assembly, and Alicia Hughes-Skandijs won a one-year seat.

Deedie Sorensen and Emil Mackey won seats on the school board.

Additional ballots nudge Centennial Hall debt question from ‘no’ to ‘yes’

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