Anchorage Assembly approves $530M operating budget

The Anchorage Assembly chambers at the Z. J. Loussac Public Library in Anchorage.
The Anchorage Assembly chambers at the Z. J. Loussac Public Library in Anchorage. (Staff photo)

The Anchorage Assembly passed an operating budget worth about $530 million on Tuesday night. But, with only a slight rise over last year’s total, that amount will not mean any big tax increases for residents.

This year’s budget process was without major controversies, introduced by the administration of Mayor Ethan Berkowitz as essentially a continuation of its policies prioritizing public safety. That includes robust spending on boosting police and fire department staffing, as well as more emergency dispatchers. This year’s budget is $13.3 million above last year’s. The administration attributes that increase to rising labor costs and picking up diminished state spending on services.

The Assembly had relatively few amendments to the administration’s original budget. The most substantial was shifting around $735,000 to extend shelter services for homeless residents. The move makes permanent what have been emergency spending measures.

“The intent here is that we continue this funding year over year, it becomes a part of our operations, so that we are housing vulnerable individuals, not just during cold weather months but all year long,” said Assembly Member Meg Zalatel, who carried multiple iterations of the amendment.

For property owners, the 2020 operating budget will increase taxes on a median-valued home by about $20.

Earlier in it’s meeting, the Assembly voted unanimously on two separate resolutions aimed at recognizing vulnerable populations within the city. The first acknowledged the municipality’s responsibility for protecting missing and murdered indigenous women. The second designates Nov. 20 of 2019 as Transgender Remembrance Day, drawing attention to trans and gender-nonconforming victim’s of violence.