Assembly passes largest budget in Anchorage’s history

Alaska's News Source Anchor Ariane Aramburo brings you the FastCast daily digital headlines for Nov. 2023, 2022.
Published: Nov. 23, 2022 at 6:57 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Two big items were passed by the Anchorage Assembly last night which include the 2023 budget and an ordinance that eliminates parking minimums over Title 21 as a building requirement.

The budget went through several work sessions along with two public hearings. Back in October, Mayor Dave Bronson proposed a $583 million budget which was a continuation budget from last year, despite small changes. It would allocate for the same services as last year, but with about $20 million more than last year’s budget.

The Assembly adjusted it by adding some small budget items to the continuation budget, including proposals brought forth by Assembly Members and Co-Chairs of the Budget and Finance Committee Austin Quinn-Davidson and Forest Dunbar, meant to improve snow plowing, increase public safety resources and enhance the quality of life in Anchorage. These changes by the Assembly totaled around $3-4 million additional. Besides those changes, the rest of the budget was a continuation.

“The largest changes were additional funds for what’s called the Mobile Crisis Team at the fire department, which the mayor had eliminated and sort of absorbed into the police department. We were able to fund that and increased funding for what’s called the Mobile Intervention Team at the police department, which does a slightly different role,” Dunbar said.

In the past, Assembly Vice Chair Chris Constant has said that there are not many things that the budget doesn’t impact. At the beginning of the Assembly meeting, Constant said “the budget is a reflection of our values, vision and priorities of our community so its important to develop a budget that our community can be proud of.”

After several amendments and much deliberation to the proposed general operating budget for the Municipality of Anchorage, the ordinance passed 9-3 with members Jamie Allard, Randy Sulte and Kevin Cross voting against it. Effectively, passing the $587 million budget, the largest budget in Anchorage’s history, it is now up to Bronson to decide if there are any parts of the budget that he doesn’t approve of. Dunbar said he was disappointed that the budget did not pass unanimously.

“The budget went through a very robust and thorough conversation within just a number of amendments that targeted public safety, snow plowing increases both on sidewalks and in the street, and other primary services, including enhanced response by both police and fire department for people in mental health crisis. And further investments in youth and child prevention and early childhood education,” Constant said.

Last night, the Assembly also unanimously passed an ordinance that eliminates mandated parking for cars in Anchorage. Dunbar said that a lot of places in Anchorage have overbuilt parking facilities so it will no longer be mandated to build parking.

“What it says is the government is no longer going to force you to build expensive car parking that you may or may not need,” Dunbar said. “If you want to build parking, you can — off-street parking.”

Dunbar believes that for those who don’t want to build parking, this passed ordinance will help a lot with new construction for affordable housing and adapting reuse of existing buildings.

After public hearings, the Assembly heard loud and clear from the community that in the face of inflation, snow maintenance was an important part of their daily lives.

“We learned last night from one of the administration officials that the mayor’s budget actually represented a service cut in snow removal because they had sort of continued the budget but not accounted for inflation,” Dunbar said.

In the past year, there have been many complaints about snowplowing to the Municipality and due to this, the Assembly moved to increase the level of service instead of keeping it a continuation of last year, which would have likely reduced the level of service due to the current economic status, according to Dunbar. They were able to account for inflation and give snow services an additional half a million dollar investment to hopefully improve these services for the community.

Separate from the budget process, the Assembly was able to use ARPA funds that were left over from the federal government to put around $400,000 towards a resolution for security and clean-up around the Sullivan Arena to help mitigate some of the impacts that are happening in surrounding neighborhoods. There are some additional areas including the Chester Creek Sports Complex, Chester Creek Park, Peratrovich Park, and part of the Chester Creek Greenbelt up to Arctic Boulevard.

The mayor now has seven days to issue any veto’s to the passed 2023 budget. If there are no vetoes, the budget will now move on to implementation which will take effect on Jan. 1, 2023.