Juneau’s cruise ship head tax spending pitches due next week

Three cruise ships dock in downtown Juneau July 14, at the height of the tourist season. (Photo by Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska News)

Proposals to spend Juneau’s cruise ship passenger fees are due January 2, and so far, the city hasn’t received many pitches.

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The city charges a $5 per passenger tax on large vessels that stop in Juneau. With about a million cruise ship passengers a year, it generates about $5 million. Under federal law, that money can only be spent on projects and programs that address both cruise ship passengers’ safety and accessibility.

Susan Phillips, an executive assistant to the city manager, said, as of Dec. 27, the city has only received nine project proposals from five entities. The submissions period opened Dec. 2.

Typically, the city receives dozens of pitches for things like seasonal emergency services personnel, waterfront infrastructure improvements, crossing guards and more public restroom cleaning and maintenance.

Meanwhile, Cruise Lines International Association’s lawsuit alleging Juneau misspends that money is pending in federal court.

Neither the city attorney nor a representative of the cruise line association could be reached for comment, but Juneau Deputy City Manager Mila Cosgrove said the case is in the discovery phase.

Cosgrove said the looming lawsuit won’t affect the spending process this year.

“Business as usual,” Cosgrove said. “We’ll just move forward with using the same process we’ve always used, as you’re aware. It’s a public process where we ask people to submit, and then we go through — traditionally, we have met with industry representatives to discuss the proposals and hear their thoughts about them, and we will do the same thing this year.”

Juneau’s Marine Passenger Fee Proceeds Committee vets the initial list of spending proposals. Its recommendation go to the Juneau Assembly, which gets the final say on the projects that make the cut. The assembly discussion is expected in the spring for the budget year that begins in July.

Jeremy Hsieh is the deputy managing editor of the KTOO newsroom in Juneau. He’s a podcast fiend who’s worked in journalism since high school as a reporter, editor and television producer. He ran Gavel Alaska for 360 North from 2011 to 2016, and is big on experimenting with novel tools and mediums (including the occasional animated gif) to tell stories and demystify the news. Jeremy’s an East Coast transplant who moved to Juneau in 2008.

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