Bronson administration faces questions about budget cuts and property tax relief

Anchorage City Hall.
Anchorage City Hall.(Jeremy Kashatok/Alaska's News Source)
Published: Aug. 19, 2021 at 7:44 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - As a candidate, Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson promised cuts to the Municipality of Anchorage’s budget and property tax relief for businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, his administration is facing questions about whether those promises will be reflected in the new mayor’s first proposed budget.

During an Anchorage Assembly Budget and Finance Committee meeting on Thursday, assembly member Forrest Dunbar asked members of Bronson’s administration to provide an update on the status of the 2022 budget process, including potential cuts and any proposed property tax reductions for business owners impacted by the pandemic.

“The last couple of hearings, we’ve had this on the agenda because we need to know far in advance when we’re building the budget when there’s a major item like this,” Dunbar said. “During the campaign, Dave Bronson promised a 25% business tax cut for those impacted by COVID-19.”

While Dunbar has said publicly that he doesn’t think a tax rebate or reduction is feasible, he said assembly members need to know if the administration plans to make good on that promise.

Anchorage Municipal Manager Amy Demboski clarified that the administration did not request those topics be placed on the meeting agenda and is still in its process of evaluating potential cuts.

“I’m not speaking to any campaign promises or non-promises,” Demboski said. “What I’m saying is, if there’s a reduction in the budget, we’ll present that at Oct. 1 with the budget. We’re in the process of evaluating what that would look like and what impacts that would be, not only to our employees but to services. With respect to a 25% property tax reduction, again, I’m not speaking to anything related to a campaign, what I’m saying is if the administration brings that forward, we’ll bring it forward in the appropriate fashion and the assembly will have the opportunity to evaluate that and vote on that.”

Assembly member Jamie Allard then called Bronson’s promises on the campaign trail “irrelevant.”

“I know we reference campaign quite a bit when we’re discussing Mayor Bronson,” Allard said. “But the truth is, he’s our mayor, and I think referencing back to what he ran on is irrelevant to what we’re discussing today, so I would hope we can stay on topic and focus on what his mission is today and not keep bringing up a political figure that ran for office and now has won.”

During a televised conversation on Alaska’s News Source between runoff candidates Bronson and Dunbar, Bronson discussed his plans to look at cutting “probably everything except the police department, for now,” and said to business owners who faced restrictions during the pandemic while still owing property taxes, “we will rebate their property taxes.”

“I think the things you say on the campaign trail, they shouldn’t just be put out willy-nilly,” Dunbar said. “You should be held to account for those. What we say in politics, what we say in government, we should be telling the truth.”

On Thursday, Bronson administration spokesperson Matt Shuckerow emailed a statement that read:

“Mayor Bronson and his administration are in the process of examining all facets on the MOA budget, particularly as they take office and begin preparing to introduce their annual budget later this year.

“As part of this process, the Mayor and his administration have assigned departments to begin gathering information to evaluate what a potential overall reduction of 5% across the MOA budget may look like with a particular emphasis on efficiencies, streamlining services and effectiveness of government operations.”

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