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Kodiak Island Borough takes lawsuit with KANA to Alaska Supreme Court

The Kodiak Island Borough building features a state flag near the entrance. (Brian Venua/KMXT)
The Kodiak Island Borough building features a state flag near the entrance. (Brian Venua/KMXT)

A legal back and forth between the Kodiak Island Borough and the Kodiak Area Native Association over property taxes is headed to the Alaska Supreme Court.

KANA has been paying property taxes despite claiming that the organization should be under a Bureau of Indian Affairs exemption for serving Native people.

The Native association sued the Kodiak Island Borough three years ago to get that money back and a superior court judge ruled in their favor in September.

Aimee Williams is the borough manager. She said she and the Borough Assembly disagreed with that ruling.

“There were a lot of things that we thought that were an error from the Superior Court level and so our lawyer has articulated that,” she said.

The borough’s position is that exemptions don’t apply because the facilities serve more than just shareholders.

However, nearly half a million dollars have been returned to KANA since the ruling. But the borough is appealing to the state supreme court to get those taxes back. The money disputed is from their 2020 and 2021 fiscal years.

Williams said if the appeal goes through, most of the money would likely go towards the school district.

“Right off the top, 86 cents from every tax dollar that comes into the borough is either going to fund the school district or for school bond debt,” she said.

The Borough Assembly has had a lot of turnover since the case began. Three new members were elected just this year. Ryan Sharatt was appointed this summer and was elected in early October. Bo Whiteside and Steven Ames also joined the Assembly earlier this month.

Williams is also new in her position as borough manager.

She said it’s been difficult keeping everyone updated on the case and even harder to balance everyone’s opinions.

“The Assembly has seven people and a mayor that go into Executive Session and as you can imagine, there are eight plus me, nine, opinions that are different and looking at it from different reasons,” she said.

Williams said despite the lawsuit, the Native association and the borough share the same goal of improving life on the island.

“As far as I’m concerned, KANA and the Kodiak Island Borough still have a great working relationship,” she said. “One of the KANA employees asked me to sign a letter of support for a grant they’re working on – of course I did. And we’re working with them right now on another grant that will have both of our names on it.”

The Kodiak Area Native Association has since filed a counter-appeal as well.

Williams said she still does not know when the state’s supreme court will contact them about the case.