Mayor Sullivan's City Budget Options Offer Major Cuts or Continued Services

How much will the mayor's budget cost the city and how will it affect services? The Assembly will review the options on October 12.


by Russ Slaten

Original Air Date: October 4, 2012

ANCHORAGE - Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan proposed one city budget that would result in minor reductions, and another that may see major cuts to public safety.

Mayor Sullivan's Plan 'A' budget may eliminate nearly 190 positions either filled or vacant including 19 vacant police jobs and 29 new recruits, along with 10 vacant fire jobs and 11 firefighters.

Plan 'A' would close two fire stations and cut bus routes and library hours.

Although, under the mayor's Plan 'B' budget, the gist of services would be at nearly the same level, thanks to the use of state funding.

"Last legislative session, the Legislature capped the amount of money that the school district can collect in property taxes, and they're making up the difference through state funds. That leaves those funds available for general government if the assembly decides to process those funds. And until they make that policy decision, we're not able to put that forward as our initial budget," said Mayor Sullivan.

The city is about $30 million short in revenues, in order to keep the same level of services. Plan 'A' would total about $450 million, $6 million less than last year.

Plan 'B,' which Mayor Sullivan supports, would be over $460 million, including the $12 million the school district cannot use due to the state's tax cap.

"The taxpayers are getting a minor rate of inflation, but we're able to maintain services at a high level. As I've been out in the community I think people are very, very happy with the level of service we're providing right now. Some people would like to see even more service which we can't afford, but I don't think people want to see a decrease in service and I agree," said Mayor Sullivan.

The Anchorage Police Department Employees Association President Derek Hsieh said the need for consistent public safety is among the greatest for the city.

"Will police staffing be maintained at the level that it is today through 2013? We will certainly have some retirements and some other attrition in the department, and I think that a 2013 [police] academy would be a good idea, maybe in October or November," said Hsieh.

Feedback from many citizens involved in ride-a-longs were amazed by what they saw, Hsieh said.

"I think they're surprised how busy the officers are while they're working, and I think the public is well aware of the activity rate that we've encountered here recently, and we can probably expect to continue in the future," said Hsieh.

In either case, according to the city's six-year fiscal forecast there will be lower deficits in future years.

The Anchorage Assembly will discuss both versions of the mayor's budget at it's first work session on October 12.