Daily Sitka Sentinel

Assembly to Weigh Centennial Hall Fees

    A proposal to have nonprofits pay $50 to $155 to use a meeting room in Centennial Hall will be on the agenda at tonight’s Assembly meeting.
    City Administrator Jim Dinley said he is proposing a new Centennial Hall fee policy at the request of the Assembly, which is looking for ways to cover a revenue gap in the 2013 city budget now being drafted.
    “The building costs about $500,000 a year to operate,” Dinley said. “We bring in about $60,000 to $65,000, so it’s extremely subsidized. The question the Assembly raised is, they wanted to raise the revenue and wanted the groups that sponsor organizations to contribute to it.”
    At present no fee is charged to nonprofit organizations that have meetings in the building. Under the proposed new policy, city boards and commissions still would not be charged for their use of the building for meetings.
    Centennial Hall Manager Don Kluting said there were 957 reservations in 2011, and there was no charge for 440 of  them. Of the 440 reservations where there was no charge, 238 were for city business. The city also maintains facilities for cruise ship visitors, including the restrooms, and receives no income to offset expenses.
    “It’s the most used building in the city,” Dinley said. “It’s used by everyone. It’s just a neat building.”
    But he said it’s an expensive building to run and maintain, and he realizes that there will always have to be some subsidy.
    “We’re trying to reduce the amount the city’s putting in,” Dinley said. “We’re glad people use it. We just want to keep it up.”
    The proposal is to charge organizations $50 to $155 for meetings in the various rooms. Dinley said the purpose is to offset labor costs of running the building, and the proposed $50 minimum does not cover the actual costs of keeping the building open.
    Other proposed changes include:
    – closing the building at 10 p.m., instead of midnight, when organizations have confirmed reservations for evening meetings. Administrative hours will be seasonal: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday year-round. Saturday hours will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the summer and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the winter. A charge of $50 per hour is proposed for additional hours, to offset labor costs.
    – a $50 per day charge for rehearsals and setup, except for the auditorium.
    – an annual charge of $5,000 for Baranof Arts and Crafts Association’s use of the exhibit room. Currently BACA pays the city 5 percent of its sale proceeds, amounting to $2,000 to $3,000 a year.
    – charging the Sitka Historical Society $200 a month for the museum space, and 5 percent of gross sales receipts. At present the historical society does not pay for use of the museum space but does charge the city’s 5 to 6 percent on gift shop sales.
    Other revenue-raising issues that will come before the Assembly tonight are ordinances to change the senior tax exemption to an income-qualified program; raising the sales tax cap from $1,000 to $1,500; and changing the distribution of the charter boat fish box tax.
    All three of those items will be up for first reading, since they were all substantially amended when introduced at the last meeting. If approved, they will be forwarded for a second reading and public hearing at a later meeting.

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