Mayor Bronson reviewing budget amended by Assembly

A photo of Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson taken on November 23, 2021 in the assembly chambers
A photo of Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson taken on November 23, 2021 in the assembly chambers(Connor Matteson)
Published: Nov. 24, 2021 at 8:27 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Anchorage Assembly voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve an operating budget over $500 million operating budget for 2022 after previously amending Bronson’s original budget proposal.

“Last night the assembly was able to restore some of the funds for public safety that the mayor had proposed to cut as well, as community grants that go to organizations like Covenant House and Youth Courts, and THEN we passed the operating budget as amended,” said assemblyman Forrest Dunbar.

The assembly also amended the budget by $125,000 each to go toward Abused Women Aid in Crisis and Victims for Justice. Executive Director of Victims for Justice Victoria Shanklin said this new source of funding is critical for the organization.

“This money is really going to help support our direct services,” said Shanklin. “So primarily funding our advocates and strengthening our relationships that we have been really fostering with the Anchorage Police Department and the district attorney’s office.”

Shanklin said this new funding will take up about a quarter of their 2022 budget. She further stated that the organization has a hard time finding money as their clients are victims of a wide variety of crimes like homicide and hit and runs, while most funds are earmarked for sexual assault and domestic violence. Victims for Justice took a hit after funds from the Victims of Crimes Act was depleted due to fewer prosecutions and diverted funds.

“The problem was is that years ago that funding was redistributed and or redirected,” Shanklin said. “And the fund that went to fund victim’s services throughout the nation was depleted.”

The Victims of Crimes Act was a majority of the organizations budget, coming in at about $300,00. Shanklin is grateful for the funding from the Anchorage Assembly.

The Assembly also added $1.2 million in funding for the school resource officer program for a period of five months, and added back the full $1.5 million in funding from the alcohol tax program for the mobile crisis team, which also kept the program within the Anchorage Fire Department. Dunbar said that he felt they passed a balanced budget

“Ultimately it was about $3 million that shifted to different places on the operating side out of a more than $500 million budget. We were able to find some new revenue sources—not really new revenue sources—but there were some new estimates there and we made some cuts as well. I mean I think we got creative, we worked hard, this will not increase, significantly increase property taxes.”

Assembly member Austin Quinn-Davidson and Dunbar, who both brought forward the omnibus amendment package, said one of the reasons they believe the changes will work is because it’s projected that both the city’s alcohol and bed taxes will come in slightly higher than originally estimated in the proposed budget.

Bronson’s office released a statement on Wednesday following the Tuesday passage of the amended budget.

“Mayor Bronson is carefully reviewing with the departments, the budget that was passed last night. His priorities remain the same since the first day he took office, in creating a more efficient and effective government that will take the burden off the tax cap for all people of Anchorage,” reads the statement.

The original draft of the budget proposed by Mayor Bronson and his administration in October originally represented about a $7.5 million reduction from the previous budget, or about a 1.3% difference. On Tuesday, S&P Global Ratings downgraded the the municipality’s general obligation and certificate of participation bonds rating from a “AAA” rating to a “AA+” rating, which they say is due to overspending and a decline in available reserves. Bronson said this could make it more expensive for the Municipality of Anchorage to borrow in the future with the increased costs directly impacting taxpayers and went before the assembly Tuesday night to say these ratings are critical as the municipality determines what the budget will look like in the upcoming fiscal year.

“Based on this new information I will have to consider, based on assembly spending, a bond holiday,” said Bronson. “We can not keep spending more than we have, we can not do things that will harm our children and our grandchildren’s ability to live and work in this city. We have to set up our great city with a successful foundation in order to build and grow.”

Bronson has the opportunity to veto the amended version of the 2022 general operations budget. If no vetoes are issued, the budget will be appropriated as amended and passed by the assembly.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story included a headline that Mayor Bronson was considering vetoes, which he has not publicly stated since the Assembly passed the amended budget Tuesday night.

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