Mayor considers job cuts and low-profile budget trims

2012: Most of the 20 positions on the block aren't currently filled.

Anchorage Daily NewsOctober 22, 2011 

Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan is proposing to eliminate more city positions in 2012 but is also counting on achieving some savings by cutting the budget in an area that people won't even notice.

The city expects to save $6.5 million next year by simply reducing a category that was over-budgeted: cashed-out leave, said city budget director Cheryl Frasca.

And on top of that, the city anticipates saving another $4.1 million in the same category this year, for a total of $10.6 million that can be used to help balance next year's budget, she said.

Cashed-out leave is leave that employees are entitled to cash in when they end city employment, or in some cases are still working for the city, and have earned a lot of leave. The city hasn't been spending nearly as much as has been budgeted in that category, Frasca said.

The administration's proposed operating budget is up 1.9 percent for next year, from $443.2 million in 2011 to $451.8 million in 2012.

Continuing city government at the same level as this year, with inflation and salary increases, would have cost $462.7 million, say city budget documents.

The mayor has proposed reductions and modest tax increases to balance the spending and revenue in 2012.

Frasca gave the Anchorage Assembly an overview and a look at some departments at a work session Friday.

Here are some of the highlights:

JOBS

The 2012 budget proposal calls for a net loss of 20 city positions, but only three full-time and two part-time jobs of those proposed to be cut are currently filled, said Frasca.

Sullivan has been shrinking city government ever since taking office in 2009, with more drastic job cuts in the early years, which coincided with the brunt of the recession.

Two of the filled full-time positions proposed for elimination in 2012 are in the Department of Health and Human Services and the third is in the Parks and Recreation Department, Frasca said.

The parks department intends to save money by replacing some full-time staff with seasonal workers. Its overall staffing would rise from 314 to 323. But supporter of parks programs, including the Tuesday night running race series that's going on right now, have been contacting Assembly members to complain.

Parks Director John Rodda has promised that the race series, which draws hundreds of children and adults, will continue. Critics are afraid they won't be the same.

PROPERTY TAXES

Sullivan is proposing a property tax increase of 1.4 percent, or $3.1 million. That is $1.5 million under the amount the city could increase taxes under the tax cap, which limits increases from year to year. It's an increase of $7 per $100,000 worth of property. So if your house is worth $300,000, you would pay $21 more for city services next year. That doesn't include any tax increases for schools, which haven't been decided yet. City and school taxes come on the same tax bill every spring.

CAR TAXES

Another notable tax item: The state collects vehicle taxes for the city when vehicle owners renew their car registration. The Anchorage Assembly decided a year ago to raise those taxes starting in January 2012.

The vehicle taxes are expected to raise $3.8 million more for the city next year. The individual rates vary. The rate for a new car would rise from $121 to $150. Taxes on cars 7 years old and older would increase from $16 to $70.

The Assembly is just beginning its consideration of the budget. The first of three public hearings is scheduled at Tuesday's Assembly meeting in Loussac Library. The meeting starts at 5 p.m. but public hearings don't begin until at least 6 p.m. The Assembly expects to vote on the budget at its Dec. 6 meeting.


Reach Rosemary Shinohara at rshinohara@adn.com or 257-4340.


City budget at a glance

• Administration’s proposal for 2012: $451.8 million.

• 2011 budget: $443.2 million.

• Property tax increase: $3.1 million; $7 more per $100,000 in property value.

• Vehicle tax increase: $3.8 million. Individual increase varies.

• Net number of positions eliminated: 20.

• Number of those positions filled today: 3 full-time, 2 part-time.

• Assembly public hearings, Loussac Library after 6 p.m.: Oct. 25, Nov. 8, Nov. 22.

• Assembly vote: Dec. 6.

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