Anchorage Mayor Proposes 2 Ways to Cut $30 Million Budget Shortfall

Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan

Mayor Dan Sullivan put two budgets before the Anchorage Assembly this week.

Sullivan’s two proposals, both aim to eliminate a $30 million budget shortfall.

We asked every department to look at how they could come up with their part of the savings,” Sullivan said. “When you have a $30 million deficit every single department has to participate.”

And Sullivan says it’s not pretty. Proposed Budget A would cut nearly $6 million from the 2012 budget, resulting in the layoff 10 planning and finance department employees, 29 police officers and 11 firefighters. Plus, it eliminates 82 unfilled positions. In addition, it would close three fire stations and get rid of fire truck. Bus service would be eliminated on Sundays and park maintenance, recreation services and street maintenance would be reduced, along with library hours. Even the Mayor says those cuts would be bad.

We think that the proposed cuts are at a level where we would se a reduction in service beyond a level that we would like to see,” Sullivan said.

So the Mayor’s office came up with a plan B, which juggles some newly available money around to prevent most of the cuts. The money comes from tax revenues no longer available to the school district.

In order to fund the B budget and restore positions, restore service, we’d have to access part of the taxing revenues that have traditionally gone to the Anchorage School District. Last legislative session the legislature capped the amount of money that the school district can collect in property taxes, and they’re making up the difference from state funds. That leaves those funds available for general government, if the assembly decides to access those funds,” Sullivan said.

That property tax revenue is estimated at $14 million. Sullivan’s B budget proposes using about 12 of it. Municipal officials say budget B would raise property taxes for home owners by 1 percent. So on a $300,000 home, the property tax would increase by about $40 in plan B. The Mayor says the budget shortfall originated from labor contract expenses. Plan B would maintain more services, says Mike Stumbaugh with the Anchorage Fire Fighter’s Union. But to say it keeps them at 2012 levels, as Sullivan did in a press conference Wednesday, would be a stretch.

I believe the Mayor misspoke a little bit or he forgot about the fire department when he said that. Because when you’re closing an entire fire station, I’m not sure how you could say that services in that area, especially, are not reduced,” Stumbaugh said.

Stumbaugh says he’s most concerned about the elimination about the elimination of several stations. Those cuts, Stumbaugh says could cause problems with response times.

You would lose at least three personnel and the air apparatus for the buildings. I mean Eagle River is booming. So for them to close that and say that services aren’t reduced. The nearest station would be Muldoon,” Stumbaugh said.

Derek Hsieh with the Anchorage Police Union had similar concerns. He says Budget B is better he says, but it still leaves the APD short handed.

The B budget doesn’t call for the layoff of any officers, but we would lose the 20 unfilled positions,” Hsieh said.

The total municipal budget is more than $448 million. The Assembly must approve it. They’ll be an assembly work session on the budget in mid October. Assembly Chair Ernie hall says it’s likely that proposed budget B will be passed by the Assembly, with minor changes. Both Stumbaugh and Hsieh say they hope those minor changes will include budget increases for the fire and police departments.

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Daysha Eaton, KMXT - Kodiak
Daysha Eaton is a contributor with the Alaska Public Radio Network. Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage. Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email. Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.