The Mat-Su Borough Assembly will let voters decide if they want to see additional police forces in the Valley.

The assembly voted 5-2 in favor of putting language on the October 2 ballot that would poll residents about the need for more enforcement.

The Mat-Su is a second class borough and currently does not have police powers. 

A recent study by the UAA Justice Center showed Alaska State Troopers in the Mat-Su Valley are massively understaffed and need 26 additional troopers to keep up with the call volume as the borough grows.

Many people who testified at Monday’s meeting admitted they were frustrated with rising crime but were still opposed to having residents pay for additional police. 

They said the real issue is the problem with Senate Bill 91, which some describe as a “revolving door” for criminals, and said it’s the legislature’s job to fix the criminal justice system first.

Borough Mayor Vern Halter agreed.

“It’s an issue of whether you want to raise property taxes or have the state to their job. That’s what this is all about.”

Assemblyman Jim Sykes sponsored the proposal, which initially called for a funding increase of “3 to 3.5 mills ($300 to $350 for each $100,00 of assessed property value).”

If voters approved the measure, Sykes said the borough could look at the best way of funding more law enforcement, whether that’s through additional troopers or giving the local police departments in Wasilla and Palmer more range.

“If there’s interest we can come up with a commission or have a lot of public discussion about what services people want, how to pay for them or if we even need them,” Sykes said. “I think we need to do the responsible thing and ask the question.”

George McKee was one of two assembly members who voted against the measure. He said putting the issue to voters “raised expectations.”

McKee echoed the public comments saying it’s up to legislators to come up with a solution instead.

“The number one issue the state government has is to provide for the security of the people and they’re not doing that,” McKee said as the audience applauded.

Sykes amended the language of the ordinance to allow all residents in the Mat-Su Borough to vote on October 2, not just people who live outside city limits as initially proposed.

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