News from Patrick Flynn

Is that fat free milk? No, it’s 2 percent.

In my previous post I ruminated about what level of Anchorage School District spending the Assembly would be willing to approve for the coming year.  I talked to Superintendent Carol Comeau over the weekend and, while she certainly doesn’t want to see ASD’s budget cut, she drew the same conclusions I did about the Assembly’s mood during the Friday work session.

Here’s how the ASD budget proposal breaks down:

  • Total spending, including local, state & federal dollars: $762.9 million
  • Total local property tax spending, including debt service: $233 million
  • Total local general fund property tax spending: $191.9 million

Of those numbers the only one with any real flexibility is the latter, how much in property tax revenues are we willing to commit for operating our schools?  There are two major factors I’m trying to balance. 

The first is the importance of educating Anchorage‘s children.  Aside from the oft-repeated maxim that, “our children are our future,” the fact of the matter is that people with decent educations are more likely to find jobs, start a business or join the military while those without decent educations are more likely to become a drain on society.  In other words, a good educational system is good economics.

On the flip side is the current fiscal situation.  Although Anchorage’s economy is in relatively good shape there are still storm clouds in the offing.  North Slope oil field activity is scaling back, air cargo at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is down about 30% and the summer tourism season is looking to be the slowest in years.  Given that, I feel it is incumbent upon the Assembly to consider options that will mitigate this year’s property tax bills, especially since I suspect many folks will see an increase.

In reading through the School District’s proposed budget there’s nothing that leaps out at me as particularly wasteful.  Even if there was an item I didn’t like the Assembly can’t tell ASD how to use the dollars we give them, only how many they get.  And I certainly don’t think ASD does a bad job educating kids but I do feel mindful of taxpayer concerns. 

After speaking with a couple colleagues on Sunday, March 22, I agreed to co-sponsor an amendment to the ASD budget ordinance that would reduce property taxes for general fund spending by about $3.9 million, or 2 percent.  I don’t know if my effort to strike a balance between education funding and taxpayer needs will carry the day tomorrow, but I’m cautiously optimistic.  Stay tuned!



This contribution was made on Monday, 23. March 2009 at 16:45 and was published under the category Fiscal matters. You can follow comments on this entry through the RSS-Feed.

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