Assembly approves $475 million city budget

Rosemary Shinohara

After weeks of agonizing over potential cuts to programs, the Anchorage Assembly unanimously approved a $475 million city operating budget for 2013 Tuesday night -- some $20 million more than this year's budget.

Assembly members had been concerned over possible cuts to the fire department and some other areas. In the end, the administration of Mayor Dan Sullivan found enough money to keep existing fire department staff, and all existing equipment except one piece of apparatus operating as usual next year.

The one piece of equipment that might be out of service part of the time is a water tender in the Huffman area, Sullivan said. "Tender 9 (in Huffman) will be a function of management within the department," he said.

The budget also provides another year of funding to support Anchorage Youth Court --which the administration had cut from its original version to save money.

The city is the largest donor for youth court, which offers an alternative justice system to about 300 youthful offenders per year. The city donates $205,000 annually. After next year, some Assembly members would like the state to take on the expense, since the state manages the juvenile justice system.

The Assembly approved a few amendments Tuesday night, including these two:

• They voted 10-1 to add $100,000 for library materials, on top of $100,000 Sullivan had already added. Assemblyman Chris Birch and Sullivan opposed it.

"One hundred thousand dollars is very generous given our budget challenges," Sullivan said.

Sullivan doesn't get a vote but can later veto items he doesn't like.

• They voted 6-5 to add $300,000 to provide more tasers for sworn police officers, a move that Assemblyman Dick Traini sponsored with Elvi Gray-Jackson and Harriet Drummond.

Police Chief Mark Mew said he didn't think the amendment was needed because the department planned to increase the number of tasers anyway, and also replace old ones.

About two-thirds of officers on patrol will have tasers once the $300,000 is spent, he said.

Property taxes next year will rise an estimated $49 for each $100,000 worth of property, so someone with a $300,000 house can expect to pay $147 more, said Lucinda Mahoney, the city's chief fiscal officer. That includes taxes for both the Anchorage School District and city government, Mahoney said.

The budget eliminates 10 filled positions, and other positions that are vacant, budget officials said.

Assemblyman Adam Trombley said he wasn't happy that the budget calls for taxing almost to the limit of Anchorage's tax cap. It's about $200,000 below the limit, Mahoney said. But Trombley said he still supported the budget, which he believes focuses appropriately on public safety.

Reach Rosemary Shinohara at or 257-4340.