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Bethel City Council votes to tax adventure flight companies on extra services

Elyssa Loughlin

During their July 12 meeting, Bethel City Council unanimously passed a measure to begin ensuring adventure flight companies are taxed on their extra services. During the meeting prior, an attorney for flight company Renfro’s Alaskan Adventures tried to argue against the tax, arguing that the city can’t legally tax FAA flights.

During this meeting, Bethel City Attorney Libby Bakalar agreed, but said that every service besides the flight itself can and will be taxed by the city at their 6% sales tax rate.

“So for example, if there's a guide service that goes along with the plane trip, the cost of that guide service is being charged. If you're selling a package where you put people on a plane but you're feeding them lunch, you have a naturalist, whatever services you have that aren't the specific air travel services are still taxable and need to be itemized out,” said Bakalar.

During council’s discussion on the tax, the Bethel City Clerk reminded the council that the city’s sales tax is the city’s primary form of revenue. The city plans to release a legal brief on why it’s entitled to tax these services at the next city council meeting.

And this October, city voters will be able to decide whether the City of Bethel can issue mask mandates. During last night’s meeting, the Bethel City Council voted unanimously to add a ballot proposition about city mask mandates to the municipal October election ballot.

In another unanimous vote, the council also voted to approve an extra $55,727 to the Bethel Fire Department’s budget. Firefighters were forced to work extra shifts over the past year due to fewer volunteer firefighters. The Bethel Fire Chief estimated that the department lost about 22 of its about 25 volunteer firefighters during the pandemic, but said that they have regained a few in recent weeks.

Also during the meeting, Mayor Mark Springer commented that the Bethel Public Works department has over 15 positions open, including for CDL certified truck drivers.

Finally, the council approved funding for two community action grant projects. The Bethel Evangelical Covenant Church has received $15,000 for improvements to its parking lot. The Bethel Lions Club received $13,500 for its food bank efforts, though it had requested $50,000. Council member Perry Barr, who sits on the community action grant committee, said that the reason the committee didn’t fully fund the food bank project was because it had already agreed to fund it quarterly at around the same amount. Barr said during the meeting that community action grants applications have fallen off over the past few quarters.

“I would highly encourage organizations to [apply] as we have seemed to not get as many applications as we used to,” said Barr.

Community action grants are quarterly grants that businesses and residents can apply for. Folks can apply if they have projects in mind they think could help the public, especially Bethel’s vulnerable populations. The next deadline to apply is Aug. 30.

Olivia Ebertz is a News Reporter for KYUK. She also works as a documentary filmmaker. She enjoys learning languages, making carbs, and watching movies.
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