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With Requests Up More Than 50%, Council Weighs Funding For Unalaska's Nonprofits

Berett Wilber

Unalaska's nonprofits are up against a budget crunch.

This year, a dozen organizations are requesting support from the City of Unalaska to the tune of almost $2 million.

That's more than a 50 percent increase over last year — and about $700,000 more than the city's current spending goal.

The City Council will have to choose whether to fund everyone and exceed its self-imposed limit — or deny some requests.

At a meeting Tuesday, Councilor Roger Rowland told nonprofits leaders that won't be an easy decision.

"We typically stay pretty close to what we call a cap, but it's quite egregious this year," he said. "So I'm very sorry to ask: If we decide not to go the $700-800,000 over, do you have a plan in place in case you're slightly impacted?"

That question received a variety of different answers from organizations including Unalaska Senior Citizens, Iliuliuk Family and Health Services, and the Aleutian Arts Council.

Some would dip into their savings. Others would hold extra fundraisers or delay new hires and purchases. But several leaders told the council that those strategies would only go so far, especially with state budget cuts also looming.

"Not only do you guys have the hard decision on funding locally, but we're really at risk for the remaining $75,000 that we get from the state," said Lauren Adams, general manager of Unalaska Community Broadcasting.

"And for all of the nonprofits to stand up here and say, ‘'We'll be fundraising' — I think it's really hard to imagine that all of these nonprofits are going to be able to continue their current level of service without cutting," she said. "I don't see that happening."

Councilors didn't make any decisions at Tuesday's meeting. 

While Mayor Frank Kelty is hoping Unalaska can continue its recent history of fully funding nonprofits, he said city officials will have to watch the state budget process carefully to see how it affects local revenue.

"We hope that we don't lose the shared fish tax money and the debt reimbursement and things like that," said Kelty. "It's a whole new ball game if we lose that — across the board, for everybody in the community."

Kelty was referring to cuts proposed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who wants to reduce state services and end the practice of splitting lucrative fisheries taxes between the state and coastal communities.

Under Dunleavy's fish tax plan, Unalaska would lose about 27 percent of its total projected revenue — or about $8.3 million.

With the state budget still up in the air, councilors have called for a conservative approach to the local fiscal plan. They'll continue refining the $30.8 million proposal over the next month.

Disclaimer: Unalaska Community Broadcasting's grant request would help to fund arts and culture programming, not news coverage.

Laura Kraegel reported for KUCB from 2016 until 2020. She was KUCB's news director starting in 2019. We are proud to have her back in the spring of 2023 filling in as an interim reporter for KUCB.
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