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Unalaska Adopts $29 Million City Budget, Boosting Funds For Public Safety

May 25, 2017

City officials says the Unalaska Department of Public Safety has been short-staffed for years. The new budget will allow the department to create three new positions in FY18.
Credit Laura Kraegel/KUCB

The City of Unalaska has adopted a $29 million budget for fiscal year 2018.

On Wednesday, city councilors unanimously approved the financial plan, which allows the local government to spend about about $500,000 more than it did this year.

The increase accounts for three new positions at the Department of Public Safety, a new road grader for the Department of Public Works, and a 10 percent jump in the cost of health insurance for city employees.

The new budget also grants almost $1.2 million to local nonprofits.

In other financial business, City Manager Dave Martinson said Unalaska’s raw seafood tax has generated less revenue than expected in 2017. The tax -- which is levied on all seafood products processed or sold on the island -- is on track to earn about $5 million.

“We anticipate that to be a $300,000 shortfall this year, based on the lower crab amounts we had," he said.

Sales tax revenue is down slightly, too. Martinson said that dip can also be attributed to the smaller quotas and shorter seasons that crab fishermen faced over the winter.

Mayor Frank Kelty isn’t worried about the lost local profit. He said increased revenue from two state taxes will help make up the difference.

“On the resource landing tax, we’re about $5.2 million ahead, and we’re going to be over budget on the Alaska fisheries business tax," said Kelty. "That’ll be more than enough to cover the shortfall in our local tax.”

Meanwhile, Unalaska’s financial director has resigned after less than a year on the job. Nerahoo Hemraj is leaving the island next week to care for his sick wife.

“He needs to do 24/7 care for his spouse," said Martinson. "Not knowing when the end of that would occur, we came a mutual decision that it was best to have him terminate his service to the city.”

Martinson said the city is now looking for a new financial director in addition to a new fire chief and a senior fire captain.  

Thirteen people have already applied to serve as chief, while two finalists have advanced to second-round interviews for the captain position. City officials say those hiring decisions could be made in June.