Sticker shock: Anchorage Assembly hikes property taxes 5.3 percent

Anchorage skyline (photo by Frank Kovalchek, Creative Commons)

LARGEST BUDGET IN ANCHORAGE HISTORY

The Anchorage Assembly raised property taxes by 5.3 percent on Tuesday night. At the same time, the Assembly passed the largest budget in Anchorage history, for the first time ever piercing the half-a-billion-dollar mark.

The new budget for 2017 is $509 million. It will cost homeowners hundreds of dollars more on their property tax bills.

Last year, the city over-collected property taxes by about $15 million. In late summer, the Assembly told taxpayers that they’d refund $5 million of the money, but wanted to hold onto it in case it was needed.

In 2016, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, left, rallied for AFL-CIO  President Vince Beltrami as he mounted an unsuccessful attempt to win a seat in the Alaska Senate.

Mayor Ethan Berkowitz cautioned last year that city should wait until the State Legislature resolved the state’s fiscal crisis before refunding over-collected taxes. By late fall, the money was spent and taxpayers didn’t get their rebate. So much for holding on to the money.

For the next property tax billing cycle, a home appraised at $400,000, which pays about $6,500 in property taxes now, will be taxed an additional $344. A $300,000 home will be taxed an additional $243.

Amy Demboski, an assembly member from Eagle River, last year offered amendments for some $4 million in property tax relief, but was outvoted.

Last night, she offered a less ambitious $1.6 million in budget reductions — to no avail. She and fellow Assembly member Fred Dyson were outvoted 9-2.

To address overtime at the fire department, which has been driving up the budget, Demboski suggested moving a $300,000 storm water study item over to help create a firefighting academy, so that 12 departing firefighters can be replaced. Otherwise, overtime will continue to mount due to laws requiring mandatory staffing levels.

The water study will likely lead to the creation of a new storm water taxing district, which would be a new revenue stream for the city.

The original 2017 budget was $499,218,718; $509 is the revised budget passed on Tuesday.

In 2015, the city’s budget was $484 million.

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