Anchorage Assembly passes 2021 budget

 Anchorage City Hall
Anchorage City Hall (KTUU)
Published: Nov. 18, 2020 at 9:21 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Anchorage Assembly voted 8-2 to pass the Municipality’s 2021 Operating Budget Tuesday. The budget, which totals at $550,015,808, represents an increase of less than 1% from the previous year’s budget. Acting Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson said at Tuesday’s meeting that the main increases come from contractual pay raises and increased funding in areas to help combat the pandemic.

“Aside from additional investments in public health and safety, the proposed budget is essentially flat,” she said.

The budget also saw relatively few changes from the originally proposed version. A small number of amendments offered by Assembly members mainly focused on uses for revenues from the Municipality’s new alcohol tax, which contains language specifically dedicating it to new investments in public safety, mental health and substance abuse treatment, and prevention of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse.

One of the new areas funded by the tax is a Mobile Crisis Team through the Anchorage Fire Department. The team, referred to as a group of mental health first responders by some Assemblymembers, is part of an attempt to reduce the burden on the Anchorage Police Department from crisis calls that don’t necessarily require a police response.

“It… relieves from APD the burden of responding to so many calls when the need is actually for a clinician and someone trained to stabilize the situation from a behavioral health point of view,” said Assemblymember Meg Zaletel in a statement Tuesday.

The amended version of the budget also accounts for new revenues through Anchorage’s tobacco tax, which was recently modified to include e-cigarettes and vapes. Lance Wilber, Director of the Municipality’s Office of Management and Budget estimated it would reduce the property tax burden by about $800,000. Property taxes are still likely to increase, but to a lesser degree than anticipated.

“Our original estimate was about $100 for the average house, right now the estimate is around $80,” Wilber said, referring to an average home worth $350,000.

Property tax increases are officially calculated in April after property assessments and first-quarter budget revisions have been made.

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