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Assembly approves 2 percent increase for 2012 city budget

Rosemary Shinohara

The Anchorage Assembly made $522,392 worth of additions, including more funding for the Parks Department, then approved the 2012 city budget Tuesday night.

The proposed general government operating budget is about $452.3 million, a 2 percent increase over this year's spending plan of $443.2 million.

"It was a fairly seamless process," Mayor Dan Sullivan said after the vote.

There was little of the controversy that often accompanies the budget debate.

The budget the administration proposed "is pretty much a continuation budget," said Assemblyman Patrick Flynn in an interview earlier Tuesday. "There's no substantial change."

Among the most hotly debated items: The Assembly voted 6-5 to reverse an administration decision to turn three full-time recreation specialist positions in the Parks Department into four seasonal, part-time jobs. The vote adds $144,607 to the mayor's proposed budget. Voting in favor were Flynn, Ernie Hall, Harriet Drummond, Dick Traini, Paul Honeman and Elvi Gray-Jackson.

During three public hearings over the past few weeks, the parks cuts brought opposition from people worried that programs like the Tuesday night race series the city puts on wouldn't be the same with part-time staff.

The Assembly also added a records clerk to the police department, put in $50,000 more for library materials and agreed to pay for a shuttle service to the new Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center being built on C Street near International Airport Road, among seven additions.

The Assembly turned down a proposal to add back in two library positions, both of which are vacant. And the body voted against adding about $19,000 to help pay for ventilation of a cat shelter.

The additions must survive a mayoral veto to stay in the budget and Sullivan said he has made no decisions yet. It take eight votes on the Assembly to override a veto.

None of the additions are large compared to the overall budget, Sullivan said: "It's not so much the number as whether we think it's appropriate."

He warned that the city expects about a $15 million shortfall in 2013 and said the tendency is to kick problems "down the road."

The budget calls for a property tax increase of about 1.6 percent, or more than $3 million.

Vehicle taxes that the state collects for the city are also increasing beginning Jan. 1. Vehicle taxes are expected to raise $3.8 million more for the city in 2012. Individual rates vary. The rate for a new car will rise from $121 to $150. Taxes on cars 7 years old and older will increase from $16 to $70.

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

More on city budget
By ROSEMARY SHINOHARA
Anchorage Daily News