Anchorage Assembly overrides Mayor Dave Bronson’s vetoes to revised budget

Anchorage Assembly overrides Mayor Dave Bronson’s vetoes to revised budget
Published: May. 13, 2022 at 8:02 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Anchorage Assembly and Mayor Dave Bronson are continuing their game of chess with how taxpayers’ dollars should be spent.

On Friday morning during a special meeting, the assembly took less than an hour to override all of the mayor’s vetoes to the assembly’s approved revised budget. The vote was 8-3, with the conservative-leaning assembly members voting against overriding the vetoes.

Earlier this month, the mayor vetoed several items from the assembly’s revised budget, citing reasons such as “overspending” and “improper use of alcohol tax funds.”

However, on Friday the majority of the assembly members did not see it that way. West Anchorage Assembly Member Kameron Perez-Verdia felt the vetoed items were “reasonable investments” in the community, and even with funding restored by veto overrides, the municipality is still “significantly” under the tax cap.

With the overrides, the assembly restored funding to maintaining funding for the mobile crisis team and making it 24/7, the use of alcohol tax dollars to help the Anchorage Police Department with recruitment efforts and training, and “fully” funding the Anchorage School Resource Officer program.

“The school resource officers are vital,” Perez-Verdia said. “We absolutely have to have them and I believe it’s the city’s responsibility to pay for those. They are Anchorage Police Department employees and I think it is the responsibility of the city to fund that.”

Assembly members Jamie Allard, Kevin Cross, and Randy Sulte agreed with the mayor’s vetoes that — according to the mayor’s office — saved taxpayers $3.4 million dollars and delivered a budget that is $5.8 million below the tax cap. In a press release issued May 3, a spokesperson for Bronson stated that the vetoes delivered a budget for 2022 “that is $4.7 million below the Tax Cap.”

Cross added that he feels any “windfall” of tax dollars the municipality receives should be put into a reserve account, and the SRO program should come out of the school district’s budget. The new Eagle River-Chugiak Assembly Member also said he is concerned about the municipality’s future spending habits, with the assembly still debating on how to spend the next round of American Rescue Plan Act funds.

“I am going to be very concerned about just taking money and creating more bloated government and bureaucracy or things that are going to again, require us to dip into our pockets year after year to fund this dream,” Cross said.

In a statement from Mayor Bronson’s Deputy Communications Director Hans Rodvik, the administration states:

“The Mayor is disappointed, but not surprised by the Assembly’s override. The Mayor has consistently advocated for and proposed a budget that reduced spending and lowered property taxes on homeowners. Unfortunately, the Assembly chose a different path with the budget and increased both spending and property taxes”.

They added that the mayor’s revised budget lowers property taxes by over $560 for residents with average-priced homes of $420,000, and said the mayor will continue to advocate for “putting property taxpayers first” and “cost-saving measures” that deliver efficient services for Anchorage residents.

However, the Anchorage Police Department Employees Association and the Anchorage School Board were in support of the assembly’s overrides.

“I am very thankful the assembly saw fit to override the vetoes,” said APDEA President Sgt. Jeremy Conkling. “I think that it shows support for public safety and investment in public safety which is sorely needed, specifically this money that goes towards additional recruiting efforts and in-service training.”

In a statement, Anchorage School District School Board President Margo Bellamy said:

“The Anchorage School board is grateful to the anchorage assembly for continuing to support and prioritize public education by overriding the mayor’s first-quarter budget vetos, specifically the override for school resource officers (SROs). this action will put critical resources back into the classrooms that serve the youth of Anchorage, Girdwood, eagle river, and surrounding municipality communities. It will also make whole, the anchorage police department operating budget and provide a critical partnership to our district. this includes all school resource officer positions. SRO’s play a key role in campus and community safety, their service to our schools and municipality is greatly appreciated as the district continues to face rising costs due to inflation and flat funding via the base student allocation (BSA) formula, it is critical to prioritize resources that directly impact our students, and the programs and partnerships that directly impact student outcomes.”

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