The City of Hoonah is attempting to form its own borough, and hopes to include Excursion Inlet, currently a part of the Haines Borough and a significant source of tax income.

“The rationale is the people of Hoonah have been in the Glacier Bay area for thousands of years,” Hoonah city administrator Dennis Gray Junior said. “The Haines Borough formed and captured some Hoonah territory. We’re trying to right a wrong that happened when the Haines Borough formed.”

He said the area is the traditional home to one of Hoonah’s five major clans, and when the Haines Borough formed in the late 1960s, Hoonah officials disputed the Excursion Inlet inclusion with Alaska’s Local Boundary Commission (LBC) to no avail.

Gray said the borough wouldn’t initially levy property taxes, but would acquire revenues through the raw fish tax. Gray said Hoonah isn’t immediately budgeting for fish tax from Excursion Inlet, and would be open to negotiating with Haines Borough officials to “allow them to have a step down to recalibrate their budget process.”

“It’s not a grab for the raw fish tax,” Gray said. “It’s just about keeping the Excursion Inlet in Hoonah territory.”

Hoonah formed a committee in September 2018 to write a charter and define the boundaries of what would be the largest borough in Southeast Alaska, the Xunaa Borough.

The proposed territory, 35,000 square miles which also includes portions of Chatham Strait, Icy Strait, Excursion Inlet and parts of Chichagof Island, would earn the borough roughly $800,000 in tax revenues that would go toward its $3.3 million school budget.

Haines Borough manager Debra Schnabel said the assembly will likely discuss the issue at its Oct. 22 meeting, but currently has no plan of action. She said she’s had no communication with Hoonah officials or administrators. The Haines Borough receives $150,000 to $400,000 in raw fish tax annually from Excursion Inlet, depending on commercial fishing harvests. The borough also levies property and sales taxes from the Excursion Inlet cannery and a tourism lodge.

“We have a tourism business in Excursion Inlet that is responsible for a significant amount of sales tax,” Schnabel said.

Alaska’s Local Boundary Commission (LBC) is reviewing the draft petition for technical accuracy. Should the preliminary review be approved, Hoonah will need to obtain signatures from 15 percent of the registered voters who live within the city and an additional 15 percent of those who live within the proposed boundaries.

“It’s important (to note) that the formal LBC process has not begun yet,” said LBC local government specialist Eileen Raese. “It’s still a draft. They still have to gather signatures. Once the formal petition process begins, there are multiple opportunities for the public to weigh in.”