Assembly asks lawmakers to remove local tax limits on school funding
Would you be willing to pay more in taxes if it provided more opportunities for children in your school district?
That reasoning was behind a resolution from Anchorage Assembly member Fred Dyson, which passed Tuesday night in a 7 to 4 vote.
The resolution asks the Legislature and governor revise state statutes to remove local contribution limits and allow local districts and taxpayers to raise additional funds for their schools.
Dyson said there is a fixed amount of income for school districts. He asserts that students who are not from the area, come to Anchorage for its vast array of services, causing some of the locals to miss out.
"We're talking about kids with special needs whose families don't live here," Dyson said. "That doesn't give [Anchorage] a specific advantage. In fact, it would allow a way to offset the disadvantage we are at."
The school district serves children with specific needs, Dyson said, including physical, emotional, psychological or preparation for college or trades. If the child's parents don't live in Anchorage, they aren't paying for those support services.
"All I'm asking is that the Legislature, see if there is a carefully crafted way, that we could [raise taxes] if we chose," Dyson said. "Without jeopardizing the federal funds."
According to the resolution passed Tuesday, federal regulations stipulate all monies granted to schools in the state must be distributed equally, so rich schools aren't spending more on their students. If school districts want to raise taxes to make more money for their schools, they run the risk of losing not only federal dollars but state funding as well.
Other Assembly members were not fully on board with the idea, including one of the most out-spoken against it, Forrest Dunbar.
"I'm worried about the message it sends to the state government," Dunbar said at the Assembly's April 9 meeting. "The State of Alaska has a constitutional duty to fund education."
Dunbar reiterated his feelings that the state needs to hold up its end of the bargain during Tuesday's meeting before he voted no on the measure.
While the resolution passed, it's far from a done deal. The measure would still need to go through the legislative process and any tax increase must be approved by voters.
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