Winter in Unalaska by Sam Zmolek
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City of Unalaska

  • In a unanimous vote, City Council members granted the Unalaska School District its full funding request of roughly $5 million — a 6.5% increase from last year. The school district is expecting a drastic drop in student enrollment next fiscal year. And officials said that means they’ll be getting less money from the state. Overall, the projected budget is about $8 million — less than a 2% increase from last year. Still, the budget has a deficit of more than $200,000. District officials said a large part of that is due to trying to combat learning losses from the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • While Alaska’s lawmakers consider increasing public school funding, the Unalaska City School District prepares for a significant decrease in revenue due to a drop in enrollment. And with that, the district is looking to the city for about $5 million to cover its budget for fiscal year 2023. At a City Council meeting Tuesday, Superintendent Robbie Swint Jr. presented the Unalaska City School District’s proposed budget, which is based on an estimated enrollment of 345 students.
  • A city proposal to allow all-purpose vehicles on Unalaska’s streets failed to move forward Tuesday. The Unalaska City Council voted against allowing the ordinance to proceed to its next meeting. Unalaska currently prohibits the use of all-purpose vehicles — like four-wheelers and all-terrain vehicles — on city streets. But a state law that went into effect this year opens the door to allow these modes of transport on public roads in places not prohibited by local law or ordinance.
  • Unalaska’s city manager will leave her post in less than three months, when her three-year contract with the city comes to an end on May 31. City Manager Erin Reinders sent an email Wednesday afternoon to city staff announcing her departure. Reinders said she was notified Tuesday morning that the Unalaska City Council would not be renewing her contract for another term.
  • City Manager Erin Reinders announced at Tuesday’s City Council meeting that the number of reported COVID-19 infections had fallen to zero for the first time since the winter surge, when confirmed cases numbered in the hundreds. Also at the meeting, the city’s planning director, Bil Homka, presented the results from a survey that measures the quality of life in Unalaska. Unalaska City Council members also reviewed a cost benefit analysis for the Captains Bay Road improvement project, the city’s most expensive capital project.
  • The Unalaska City Council debated allowing all-purpose vehicles on the street at its meeting Tuesday night. Unalaska currently prohibits the use of all-purpose vehicles – like four-wheelers and all-terrain vehicles – on city streets. But a state law that went into effect this year opens the door to allow use of these modes of transport on public roads, so the city is debating if they want to make it possible on the island, too.
  • The Unalaska City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday night to support a partial tax exemption for federally recognized tribes. The exemption would protect tribes from paying sales taxes on government activities, like buying office supplies or organizing culture camps. The city council’s vote in support on Tuesday moves the proposed tax exemption forward another step. The council is set to take another vote in early February to officially add the exemption to city code. The Qawalangin Tribe of Unalaska requested the exemption. It was previously exempt from city sales tax as a nonprofit. But the city changed the criteria for nonprofit exemptions several years ago, and then the tribe no longer qualified.
  • Unalaska is in the midst of its largest surge of COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. As of Wednesday, there were 214 active cases on the island, according to the city’s COVID-19 dashboard. One hundred and thirty five are considered community-acquired and 79 are industry-quarantined. Previously, the city had reported its highest number of community cases at 30, during the height of the delta surge this summer.
  • Unalaska students and staff must wear face masks again in school buildings amidst a surge in COVID-19 infections on the island. The Tuesday decision from Unalaska City School District officials came on students’ second day back from winter break. The masking rules took effect Wednesday.
  • A local state of emergency that allowed the City of Unalaska to enact protective measures against COVID-19 will expire Friday. City Council took no action at a meeting Tuesday night to extend the declaration, which has been in place since the pandemic began in March 2020. When the declaration expires, the city will no longer be able to issue protective measures — like mask mandates — unless a new emergency is declared.