Muni fees may rise next year -- or not

Rosemary Shinohara

The Anchorage Assembly passed $2.6 million in city fee increases last week but a majority on the panel was opposed to the increases and in about two weeks they might take them back.

Assemblyman Bill Starr is leading the movement to kill the increases.

He said with surplus revenues expected at the end of this year, it doesn't make sense to raise fees and fines.

"We don't raise fees when we have money in the bank," he said. He wants to spend some of that surplus money instead of relying on fee increases.

One sore point: ambulance fees, which Starr said some insurance plans don't cover. Ambulance rides would go up by $300 a trip, to $700-plus.

Most of the increases fall into two areas: ambulance charges, up $1.5 million, and public transportation fares, up $660,000. Some building department fees, municipal room rental rates and other permit fees would also rise.

Mayor Dan Sullivan's administration had proposed the increases and counted on them to balance revenues with expenses in the 2013 budget, approved by the Assembly Tuesday.

The Assembly voted 7-4 to reject the fee increases. But to balance the budget they had just passed, Sullivan convinced the members to do a re-vote and the panel approved them by 9-2, at least temporarily.

Starr and Assemblyman Dick Traini the same night introduced a measure to appropriate money from an anticipated surplus of city revenue at the end of 2012 to replace revenue from the fee increases, and to repeal the legislation calling for the fee increases -- or, if not enough surplus revenue is available to cover the whole amount, to displace some of the fees.

A public hearing and Assembly consideration of the surplus measure is scheduled Dec. 4, Starr said.

If ambulance charges do go up, the cost would be $12 per mile plus a charge of between $700 and $950, depending whether the patients need advanced life support or more basic services, and whether they're Anchorage residents. Non-residents pay the highest rates.

The fees for Anchorage residents in city ambulances haven't gone up since 2001, and for non-residents, it's been three years. At the same time, the cost for emergency medical services has increased 115 percent over the last 10 years, the Fire Department said in a backup memo.

People Mover bus fares for adults would go up 25 cents to $2 and AnchorRIDES fares, for seniors and people with disabilities, would rise by $1 to $4.

The possibility of public transportation fare increases drew some negative comment during Assembly public hearings on budget issues.

"I think you fellas kind of forget that we are on a fixed budget," said Johnnie Bustamante. Cost-of-living increases for those on Social Security haven't been keeping pace with the real cost of living, he said.


Reach Rosemary Shinohara at or 257-4340.