Anchorage Assembly passes biggest budget yet
After more than three hours of debate Tuesday, the Anchorage Assembly approved a $520 million operating budget for the next fiscal year.
It's a $12 million increase from last year's and includes $500,000 to address homelessness in the municipality. Mayor Ethan Berkowitz says part of the increase also comes from costs shifted onto Anchorage by state budget cuts. Even so, the budget includes a reduction in private property taxes.
"What we have is we have more police officers than we had last year, we’re having to absorb the cost of the SAP program, and aside from those, it’s a smaller budget, and I think property tax owners are going to see significant relief, the order of $300 to 400 for the average house in Anchorage," said Berkowitz.
The Assembly added close to $1 million to Berkowitz's original proposal. Those items include:
- $50,000 for the Four A’s syringe access program
- $125,000 for Loussac Library
- $170,000 to clean up homeless camps
- $79,000 for public transportation fuel supply costs
Some Assembly members said Anchorage's budget has gotten too big.
"In good conscience, I cannot support this budget," said Assembly member Amy Demboski. "This is the largest budget we’ve ever seen in history. I looked back, just to 2015, so at the very beginning of Mayor Berkowitz’s tenure, and our budget was $474 million -- and today we’re talking about a budget of $519 million."
Assembly member Felix Rivera said the municipality's budget reflects its priorities.
"This budget really is a reflection of who we are as a city, and who we want to be, and our priorities are pretty clear -- public safety No. 1, combating homelessness, and doing everything we can to help the people on the edge, like providing significant property tax relief," Rivera said.
The budget passed by a vote of 9-2. Demboski and Fred Dyson were the only two members to vote against it. The Assembly also approved a slew of smaller capital projects to address drainage issues and road maintenance.
Overall, the Assembly's changes make up less than 2 percent of the budget, which Berkowitz said he thinks speaks to members' general satisfaction with the document.
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