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Budget, homelessness, certification on agenda for next Anchorage Assembly meeting

Budget, homelessness and certification on agenda for next assembly meeting
Published: Apr. 25, 2022 at 10:32 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Anchorage Assembly is preparing for a long night at their regular meeting this week with some big items set to be discussed.

Tuesday’s agenda will feature items that deal with the local economy and jobs, taxes, the municipal budget and homelessness.

Assembly members will also be saying goodbye to some familiar faces, and hello to new ones. The results of the April 5 municipal election will be certified early in the evening. Projected Eagle River/Chugiak winner Kevin Cross and projected South Anchorage winner Randy Sulte will both take their oaths of office, replacing Crystal Kennedy and John Weddleton, respectively, on the assembly.

Assembly member Forrest Dunbar said Kennedy was always “very polite and worked well with others”, and Weddleton was a “hard worker and into the details.” He said both will be missed.

Sulte said he will be unable to attend Tuesday in person due to family business in Arizona, but explained his plan for that evening.

“I will be online listening in, and when they certify the results, will have a notary that will come to me … and when they certify that that is true proper and correct, I will become the assembly member,” Sulte said.

Once Sulte and Cross are sworn in, a consent agenda item the assembly will be looking at approving is a resolution focused on stimulating the local economy in the aftermath of the pandemic by “thoughtfully” distributing the next round of COVID-19 funds. The Anchorage Assembly Jobs and Economic Plan the assembly is considering has four four pillars:

  • Build the workforce and assist local businesses
  • Support families
  • Invest in infrastructure
  • Make government work for the people.

Some goals of the plan are to increase workforce housing through targeted tax incentives and fee waivers, support childcare programs to help parents return to the workplace, and improve on lessons learned from the pandemic by removing more red tape and barriers to doing business.

“Tourism and hospitality coming up this summer, workforce shortages are a big concern,” said Assembly member Suzanne LaFrance. “Given that the projections are really high for people coming to Alaska (and) coming to Anchorage.”

Two big public hearings are scheduled Tuesday night. One has to do with the first quarter budget revisions. A series of amendments were introduced last week during a work session, and some assembly members are looking to restore funding for public safety and school resource officer programs that Mayor Dave Bronson cut from his revised budget.

“Even with the amendments that restore the mayor’s cuts, we will have a reduction in the mill rate and a reduction in property taxes for residential property tax payers,” Dunbar said.

He added they have to take action on the budget before early May because the assembly has to set the mill rate. Dunbar said the budget and mill rate is their “number one″ priority Tuesday night.

Dunbar said there is also the resolution that re-appropriates funds for a proposed homeless shelter and navigation center in Anchorage to the tune of $9 million. LaFrance and Dunbar said the item will probably be tabled to a future meeting, as there are still many questions and concerns about the proposal.

“We have no estimation on how much it will cost to operate, and I also believe it is far too large as currently planned for, so I will be bringing an amendment to right-size that project,” Dunbar said.

Other items planned to be discussed include a public hearing on creating a tax exemption for accessory dwelling units, and an ordinance adopting the Anchorage Downtown District Plan 2021.

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