The only really important thing the Assembly needs to do tonight is set mill rates for 2009. There are two ordinances for that, one for MOA budget items and one for ASD budget items. In conjunction we pass the first quarter budget amendments, where we set spending levels for which we need to provide revenue.
The public hearing has drawn critics favoring both cuts and budget increments. Also coloring the discussion is an announcement from Governor Palin that she will, I think, accept stimulus money that will direct about $8.6 million to the Municipality of Anchorage. In advocating for the governor to accept those dollars Acting Mayor Claman and two Assembly members pledged their support for at least half going toward property tax relief. But to do that this year we’d have to reflect that in the mill rates we set tonight.
While I like the idea of further property tax relief – we’re also applying other state municipal assistance toward the same purpose – until the governor signs the budget, her administration applies for the funds and the city receives those dollars, I’m not comfortable counting on that money. Instead, I think we should plan to save that money and use a portion of it to provide property tax relief next year.
Similarly, there are several folks in favor of maintaining funding for the Office of Equal Opportunity and the Rural Affairs Coordinator. While we might use some of the stimulus money to address those concerns, I again think it better to ensure we have those dollars in hand and to let the next mayor offer some input. We have amendments and deliberations in front of us, and we’ll see how it goes.
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