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Municipality faces choices on its budget

Rosemary Shinohara

The city has $3.7 million left unspent from 2011 and $6.2 million in unexpected state revenue coming its way to spend in 2012 -- or not.

The administration of Mayor Dan Sullivan on Friday laid out proposals to spend it all, including a big chunk to replenish the snow plowing budget.

The city Public Works Department needs a $3 million budget boost for this year to make up for extra spending on clearing snow from streets and sidewalks during our record-breaking winter, administrators said during an Anchorage Assembly work session.

At least one Assembly member, Bill Starr, said he thinks some money should go to offset property taxes instead. "I'm unconvinced," he said of the administration plan to spend the state windfall. The city can make the budget work without the $6.2 million, he said.

The Assembly is scheduled to consider the 2012 budget revisions at its meeting Tuesday. And the panel is to set the property tax rates, with property tax bills to be mailed May 15.

Including the changes proposed by the administration, property taxes for city government would rise 2.6 percent, to $231 million.

An individual property owner's bill for city services would increase by $57 for a $300,000 house. A smaller increase in taxes for schools would push the individual bill to an additional $72 for the $300,000 house.

The $6.2 million in expected state money was approved by the Legislature at the last minute, and hasn't been signed off on by the governor yet.

The administration's plan for that money:

• $1.7 million for snow removal from streets and city buildings (along with another $1.7 million from the leftover 2011 money). Without this money, the city would have to find cuts and re-prioritize spending, budget director Cheryl Frasca said.

• About $450,000 for increased fuel costs for city buses and other vehicles.

• $2 million to help pay costs associated with installation of new software programs that are expected to save money over the long run. One of them, Kronos, automates payroll timekeeping. The other big one, SAP, will be a new accounting and administrative system, covering aspects of government ranging from human resources to the budget, said city Chief Financial Officer Lucinda Mahoney.

• $2 million toward the purchase of the SAP system, instead of going into debt for it.

Besides snowplow money, the proposal for spending the $3.7 million balance from 2011 would add money for such housekeeping items as a new estimate for the vacancy factor for employees, and a cost increase in a new contract for AnchorRIDES.

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


By ROSEMARY SHINOHARA
Anchorage Daily News