Assembly approves 2024 Anchorage city budget after dozens of changes

The Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday approved the city’s 2024 budget after making more than three dozen changes, adding around $13.5 million to Mayor Dave Bronson’s $597.9 million spending plan.

After passing the slew of changes, Assembly members approved the about $611 million spending plan for general government operations in a 9-2 vote. The budget will take effect on Jan. 1.

“It is clear that true fiscal responsibility does not necessarily mean cuts to core services because we end up paying more in other ways by emergency services and costs to residents and businesses,” said Assembly member Anna Brawley, co-chair of the Budget and Finance Committee.

“Instead, we will keep focusing upstream on prevention, routine maintenance and retaining our great workforce as the best way to manage our public dollars,” she said.

The Assembly’s numerous budget changes and additions included reversing a $2.64 million one-time cut proposed by Bronson that would have defunded currently vacant staff positions in several departments.

High vacancy rates have plagued numerous city departments for much of the last two years, especially the Health, Law, and Maintenance and Operations departments.

The city is paying for that labor “one way or another,” Assembly Vice Chair Meg Zaletel said, noting that it has been relying on contracts with private companies to do jobs usually done by city workers.


“We not only appreciate the hard work of the municipal workforce, but it’s because we know the city doesn’t run without it — hard stop. Without a well-staffed municipal workforce, our city suffers, and this budget puts that front and center,” Zaletel said.

Despite the Assembly increasing the budget by several million dollars, it still comes in under the city’s maximum tax capacity, she said. That will give the city flexibility to handle surprise expenses, such as for snow removal, and to pursue new ways to fill vacancies and retain staff, she said.

Assembly member Randy Sulte was absent and did not vote. Both members representing Eagle River, Kevin Cross and Scott Myers, voted against the overall spending plan.

However, Cross and Myers successfully advocated for budget changes bringing more resources to their district, including $200,000 for the Chugiak Eagle River Comprehensive Plan update, $150,000 for the Chugiak Senior Center, and about $80,000 for emergency medical services in Chugiak.

Brawley said the Assembly is prioritizing winter maintenance of roads, public transit stops and sidewalks, public safety and emergency services, encouraging recruitment and retention of city employees, and “maintaining the high level of service that the public expects.”

[Snow removal becomes big issue in Anchorage mayor’s race]

During his opening comments Tuesday night, Bronson said he supported several of the Assembly’s additions to the spending plan, including $3.3 million for wage increases within the Anchorage Police Department.

“This wage increase to APD represents the largest wage increase for police in the history of our city. And I’m pleased the Assembly and my administration are joining in support of this matter tonight,” Bronson said.

He also voiced approval for funding increases to upgrade technology for Assembly meetings and city elections, and additional grant funding for organizations helping victims of domestic and sexual violence.

The Assembly also made changes to Bronson’s plan for alcohol tax revenues, adding several million to that portion of the spending plan. Those funds are not constrained by the city’s property tax cap and come instead from a set tax rate on alcohol sales.

Those additions include directing $2.4 million in fund balance to continue providing emergency winter homeless shelter services from January through April. The city this winter has funded 574 shelter beds in three locations, and the additional money will go toward keeping those shelters open. Still, several hundred people remain unsheltered and are enduring harsh winter conditions.

Bronson has seven days to veto any of the Assembly’s changes that his administration opposes.

However, it’s likely that Assembly members would vote to override any vetoes from Bronson. That’s because members largely approved changes Tuesday night with a supermajority of eight or more votes — the number of votes they need to override mayoral vetoes.

Other budget changes include:

• Directing $750,000 to give heavy-equipment operators “mission critical pay” through winter.

• $500,000 to set up a housing fund within the Real Estate Department aimed at bolstering affordable housing development by providing funds to developers through a competitive bid process.

• Adding 10 full-time staff to the Fire Department, using a federal grant.


• Directing $100,000 to the Anchorage Youth Court, which this year was awarded just $8,000 in grant funding from the Mayor’s Community Grants program, when in past years it had been awarded $80,000 to $120,000.

• A $2 million funding increase for the Anchorage Safety Center and Patrol.

At one point in the meeting, Assembly members and Bronson officials had a lengthy debate about whether to spend $2 million to set up two to three “allowed camps” for unsheltered homeless residents next spring.

Assembly member Felix Rivera ultimately rescinded that proposal after strong pushback from several members and city homeless coordinator Alexis Johnson.

Rivera and members Daniel Volland and Karen Bronga had proposed the measure, following the recent release of recommendations from a community task force.

The members said that opening small camps with resources available and staffed with service providers could help alleviate public health and safety issues the city saw after winter shelters closed last spring. Hundreds of people left shelters with nowhere to go. Several large encampments and dozens of smaller camps quickly spread across the city’s green spaces and public lands.

“There are people who are going to camp in our parks. If we say that these are the places that it can happen, and it’s thoughtful, ordered, there’s cleanliness, security — I think all of Anchorage will win,” Bronga said.

Johnson and other Assembly members said the money would be better invested in solutions that get people off the streets and out of camps, such as year-round shelter for the most vulnerable and for housing.


“This is the worst possible way to use this funding,” Johnson said.

Rivera then pivoted and proposed spending the money instead on a grant to the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness to help fund a housing surge pilot program with a goal to house 150 people currently experiencing homelessness.

The last-minute proposal failed in a split vote, after several members said they needed more details.

Emily Goodykoontz

Emily Goodykoontz is a reporter covering Anchorage local government and general assignments. She previously covered breaking news at The Oregonian in Portland before joining ADN in 2020. Contact her at