Anchorage schools got a big boost from the Anchorage Assembly Monday night. In a narrow 6-5 vote, members raised property taxes, giving education more than $8 million in extra funding.
Not all the money will come from property taxes, but about $6 million will. Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan said the municipality has increased its tax base by a billion dollars. He said that means most residents will still have a smaller tax bill even with the extra money for schools.
The owner of a $300,000 home will pay about $160 less in taxes this year, Sullivan said. He said that’s one reason he supports the budget as well as the additional money for schools.
“I still have a number of days to decide if I will veto anything,” Sullivan said. “But at this stage, as I look at the overall picture, pretty good tax relief, money into the savings account, I think, overall, a fairly responsible budget.”
Anchorage School District Superintendent Ed Graff said he’s grateful for any additional funding, but said there still isn’t enough money to escape making budget cuts. Graff said the increase of $150 per pupil the state Legislature has promised isn’t enough.
“It’s a challenge because we are hearing certain dollar amounts that are coming from the Legislature and from the Assembly,” Graff said. “But at the end of the day we are still not where we need to be to minimize the reductions of employees and the elimination of programs.”
Graff said about 60 teachers will receive layoff notices starting next week. He said additional funds might allow him to hire some back and work on bringing classroom numbers down.
The Anchorage School Board will discuss what to do with the additional funding at their meeting this coming Monday. The public is invited to weigh in.