As Mat-Su mulls budget, school funding off the table

Public comment on the Matanuska-Susitna Borough’s budget is underway, but the often contentious issue of local school funding is already decided.

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The Borough Assembly voted at its last meeting to give local schools a set percentage of area-wide property taxes, and the borough will provide education funding to the school district by Feb.1 each year, much earlier than in the past.

Instead of the more complicated annual calculations it had been using, the borough’s annual contribution to school funding will be set at 6.3 mills for the next five years. That would be $630 dollars on a $100,000 property.

It’s not a new tax or a tax increase, just a defined allocation of existing taxes. And while the borough says it amounts to an additional $2.5 million dollars, that represents an increase of less than half a percent of the borough’s total school funding from last year.

Still, 6.3 mills is a big chunk of what the borough collects in property taxes overall. The area-wide tax rate worked out to about 10.3 mills last year, and the Mat-Su Borough manager has proposed keeping it the same this year. But the Assembly also voted at its April 17 meeting to set the area-wide tax cap at 10.5 mills, doing away with another more complicated formula.

Meantime, Mat-Su residents can testify on the upcoming borough budget. After a public hearing in Wasilla on Tuesday, there are hearings scheduled for Thursday in Palmer and Monday in Willow.