Mayor Bronson vetoes several Anchorage Assembly budget revisions as struggle over city spending continues

Mayor Bronson vetoes several assembly budget revisions as struggle over city spending continues
Published: May. 4, 2022 at 6:12 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Vetoes and veto overrides continue as Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration and the Anchorage Assembly are at odds over what programs should be funded and how taxpayer money should be spent.

Last Tuesday, the Anchorage Assembly unanimously approved first quarter budget revisions that reinstated funding that the mayor left out of his proposed budget revision. Now, in a familiar move, the mayor has vetoed most of those budget changes, due to what he calls assembly “overspending.”

In a press release, the Bronson administration said the vetoes save taxpayers $3.4 million, and delivers a budget for 2022 that is $4.7 million below the tax cap.

Some of the vetoes strike funding to maintain the Mobile Crisis Team and have it operate 24-7 starting July 1. However, the most notable veto is to the School Resource Officer program. The assembly-approved budget would have fully funded the program for nine months at $2.3 million. The Bronson administration has been advocating for the school district to cover 75% of the cost of the program.

Assembly member Austin Quinn Davidson, who was one of the supporters of the amendment for funding of the School Resource Officer program to be reinstated in the municipal budget revision, along with Forrest Dunbar and Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance, said she feels the assembly has the votes to override the veto.

”My reaction was, why does he (Bronson) keep vetoing things that have more than eight votes?” she said. “It doesn’t seem like a great use of the public’s time or of government resources. You know, we’re fairly certain that the assembly will override those vetoes because we know that we support public safety.”

The Bronson administration said one of the reasons for striking funding to the School Resource Officer program is because the Anchorage School District approved budget includes property taxes to pay for the program during the 2022-2023 school year. Additionally, the assembly’s action taxes property owners a second time to pay for the same program according to the administration.

A veto override requires a supermajority of eight votes from the 11-member assembly. However, new South Anchorage assembly member Randy Sulte said he agrees with the mayor’s veto.

“I’m definitely in support of SROs, and I agree with that veto,” Sulte said. “... Currently that’s funded, it’s fully funded. So it’s not a question of funding it, but it’s funded by ASD. And in my opinion, we don’t supply all of the ASD funds, as you know. Some of those funds come from the state, so therefore we’re actually saving taxpayer money in the municipality by having ASD pay for it.”

Anchorage School Board President Margo Bellamy said in a statement that the school district continues to advocate for the program and the Anchorage police officers who serve the schools.

“The District will continue to work closely with the Mayor’s office as well as the Anchorage Assembly to find a viable solution to funding of the SRO program so that the financial resources they require can be redirected to the classroom,” the statement read in part.

Sgt. Jeremy Conkling, president of the Anchorage Police Department Employees Association, added he was “disheartened” by the news of the vetoes of both the school resource officer funding and the use of alcohol tax money to support expanded in-service training and recruiting efforts for the Anchorage Police Department.

“While I can understand a difference of opinion when it comes to how to disperse the limited funds of the Municipality, what I cannot understand are cuts in funding to the Anchorage Police Department,” Conkling wrote in an email to the assembly.

“On behalf of over 500 members of the Anchorage Police Department Employees Association, I urge you to support public safety by overriding these vetoes and restoring this much-needed funding to the Anchorage Police Department,” the letter continued.

LaFrance said a vote over whether to override the mayor’s vetoes will likely take place during the assembly’s regular meeting next Tuesday, or during a special meeting next week.

While Bonson vetoed several funding changes made by the assembly, he left several in place as well. He kept funding for a short-term rental study in Girdwood, grant money for the group Standing Together Against Rape, funding to train police and firefighters in Whittier, and funds for the Mayor’s Community Grants program, among others.

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