The Anchorage Assembly passed its 2015 budget at a midday meeting Wednesday. And with very few amendments or changes made, many assembly members said it was one of the smoothest budget cycles they have been a part of.
“Mr. Mayor,” said Assembly Member Bill Starr, “you’re getting very good at preparing budgets and moving public service. You reached out to your department directors early on, you told us you were going to, you tasked them with areas to scrub in the budget.”
The Assembly voted unanimously to adopt the $471,988,261 budget.
However, there points of discussion in which assembly members were frustrated that municipal spending is not keeping up with Anchorage’s expansion, and the need for services arising subsequently. An amendment to add three staff members to animal control, for example, was introduced by members Elvi Gray-Jackson and Dick Traini.
“Since ’99 things have not been static in Anchorage,” Traini said. “As the father of the dog parks I get calls all the time, from people who could not get someone there from animal control to take care of something at the dog parks.”
That amendment failed, even after an attempt to cut the proposed amount from $273,976 down to $100,000.
The assembly also took up a resolution from the city’s finance department that sets out broad six-year goals for budgeting. Assembly member Paul Honeman spoke out against what he saw as an irresponsible push to slim budgets without expanding sectors like public safety, which he believes are already stretched too thin–as evidenced by the response to an “unsanctioned dance party” late Saturday night downtown that drew security staff from the airport and University of Anchorage to assist APD officers.
“We cannot continue to do what we’ve always done, we’re going to come up short every time,” Honeman explained. “When you look at public safety, strengthening public safety, nowhere in there does it say update or upgrade out staffing to meet the objectives of the community as it has grown. I just, for principal, I’m not going to be able to support this six-year-fiscal plan.”
The only surprise in the budget voting was a last minute push concerning tennis courts. And it passed. The assembly voted on a request for $600,000 to the Legislature in Juneau that would go towards adding what Mayor Dan Sullivan described as an “open air translucent fabric” over the six courts at East High School, which would keep rain from hampering the tennis season. Assembly members objected to the late inclusion of the request, particularly given last year’s budget battles over tennis courts, but since it may end up near the bottom of the city’s priority list for capital requests could do very little, and passed 10-to-1.