$1.5 million in energy subsidies, 3-year NACTEC commitment & continued support for salmon rehabilitation projects
NOME—At their first quarter board meeting in Unalakleet on May 7, 2015, the Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation (NSEDC) Board of Directors received a report saying NSEDC paid nearly $1.5 million to utility companies, benefiting 2,655 households in Norton Sound communities. The board continued their meeting making financial commitments as regional programs face or already have been informed of budget cuts from the State of Alaska. The board voted for a $150,000 per-year commitment to the Northwestern Alaska Career and Technical Center (NACTEC) for the years 2015, 2016 and 2017. The board also approved budget amendments to include $127,717 to see three salmon rehabilitation projects continue in response to state budget cuts. The amendment includes funding for NSEDC’s Nome Subdistrict Chum and Unalakleet’s South River Chinook Rehabilitation projects, as well as funding for the Native Village of White Mountain’s Niukluk River Chinook Rehabilitation project, with which NSEDC has assisted.
“Our commitment as a board is in our communities, and I am proud to say our decisions reflect our commitment,” NSEDC Board Chairman Dan Harrelson said. “In the Board’s recent decisions, we’ve provided financial assistance to every household in our member communities, committed financial support toward the professional development of our youth, and have ensured important rehabilitation work continues to support the resources we rely upon.”
Nearly $1.5 million issued in the 2015 NSEDC Energy Subsidy
Since 2008, a total of $5.3 million has been issued to member communities in NSEDC energy subsidies. Previous $500 energy subsidies were issued by the NSEDC Board of Directors in 2008, 2012 and 2014. In February, the NSEDC Board voted to issue a $575 energy subsidy to every household in its 15 member communities. Those living off the electrical grid were given the opportunity for a $575 heating fuel credit to the fuel vendor in their community. “NSEDC has received numerous thank-you’s from individuals throughout the region for this year’s payment,” Community Benefits Director Paul Ivanoff III said at the first quarter meeting. “The board’s vision and commitment to benefit every community and, in this instance, every household is clear. Our department was happy to implement this contribution that has direct effects to individuals in our region.” All payments to utility companies have been made, and the credit will be applied, depending upon each utility’s billing cycle, starting May 1st.
NSEDC Board commits $150,000 each year to NACTEC for 2015, 2016 and 2017
In 2013 and 2014, the NSEDC Board approved contributions to NACTEC for $90,000 and $170,000 that qualified for the Alaska Educational Tax Credit Program. The tax program provides a tax credit to businesses that make contributions that improve education in Alaska, and NSEDC applies these tax credits toward Fisheries Business and Landing taxes. With gifts to regional educational programs totaling $170,000 or more for the years 2013 and 2014, the NSEDC Board voted to contribute $150,000 to NACTEC each year for the next three years.
“This firm commitment from the NSEDC Board comes at a welcome time as the legislature faces severe budgetary challenges,” NACTEC Director Doug Walrath said. “This continued commitment allows us to solidify a portion of our programs that would otherwise hang in the balance.”
Through the Alaska Educational Tax Credit Program, NSEDC contributes this funding to the regional program, allowing NACTEC to continue workforce development training to prepare regional youth for entry into Alaska’s priority industries. Healthcare, construction, seafood harvesting and processing, transportation, hospitality and tourism, education, and natural resource development industries are all state priorities. A locally trained workforce will benefit commerce and families in Northwestern Alaska. NSEDC’s partnership with NACTEC provides the continuation of career exploratory training in these sectors, and the opportunity to branch out with innovative vocational training offerings that engage students with opportunities otherwise unavailable across the Bering Strait region.
NSEDC Board funds salmon rehabilitation projects that lost State of Alaska funding
With plans already in place for the Nome Subdistrict chum salmon and Unalakleet South River Chinook salmon rehabilitation work this summer, the NSEDC Board voted to amend its 2015 budget to absorb the costs of the two projects, along with the Native Village of White Mountain’s (NVWM) Niukluk River Chinook rehabilitation program. As a result of state budget shortfalls, all three projects were cut from the state budget with funding stopping June 30, 2015. The Board appropriated the necessary amounts to see the projects continue, including $44,801 for Nome Subdistrict Chum salmon rehabilitation, $45,120 for South River Chinook salmon rehabilitation, and $41,600 for NVWM’s Niukluk River Chinook rehabilitation programs.
“With the exception of the Niukluk program, NSEDC previously funded the rehabilitation programs before state funding came in,” Norton Sound Fisheries Research and Development Director Wes Jones said. “In response to a significant downturn in Chinook escapement, addressing returns has been a priority in our department, and I’m very pleased with the Board’s decision to support the work we do in rehabilitating salmon stocks in the region.” In addition to rehabilitating salmon stocks, these projects also provide economic development through the hiring of fisheries technicians from throughout the region.
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