Thursday, January 15, 2009

Municipal Taxpayers League Launches Petition Drive To Change The Way Anchorage's Tax Cap Is Calculated; Objective Is To Lower Property Taxes

Update January 21st: Organizers called the Dan Fagan Show and reported over 6,000 signatures on the petition to date.

On January 15th, 2009, the Anchorage Daily News and KTUU Channel 2 are reporting that the Municipal Taxpayers League finally obtained city permission to launch a signature drive for their petition to get a proposed tax cap adjustment initiative on the ballot for the upcoming April 7th municipal election in Anchorage, Alaska (The Alaska Standard discussed the proposed initiative on April 12th). The organizers need to obtain the signatures of at least 7,054 registered voters (10 percent of the number of voters in the most recent municipal election) by a February 11th deadline. The League's website is as follows:

The expected outcome is to lower property tax bills somewhat throughout the city. According to their campaign flyer, the average tax reduction would be $180. The methodology is to put payments made to general government by city utilities and enterprises like Merrill Field and the Port of Anchorage back into the city's annual tax cap calculation. Those payments were included in tax cap calculations until 2003, when the Assembly approved then-Mayor Mark Begich's proposal to remove them. You can read the history of Anchorage's tax cap HERE.

The petition's backers say the 2003 change has allowed the tax cap to grow faster than it would have otherwise. They believe the Assembly is incapable of exercising spending restraints with a "soft" tax cap in place, so a "hard" tax cap is necessary to promote more financial discipline. This conclusion is validated by the fact that since 2003, the municipal budget has increased by 55%, from $280 million to $435 million. Update: Also read their ADN Compass piece published on January 25th.

However, the League's first signature drive at the Loussac Library only drew 15 people in its first half-hour and took a library security guard by surprise. Nichols said he was a little disappointed by the turnout; he said more homeowners have attended the taxpayers league's organizing meetings. [Ed. Note: I'm a little disappointed that the League didn't give it more publicity; I drove by the Loussac at 4 P.M. and I didn't see any organizers there.]

One notable who stopped by was mayoral candidate and former Assemblyman Dan Sullivan, considered a co-favorite along with Eric Croft in the upcoming mayor's race. While Sullivan offered encouragement, he stopped short of a full-fledged endorsement of the petition. Sullivan thinks returning to the tax cap formula used before 2003 makes sense. But he acknowledged he probably voted for the change the petitioners are trying to reverse. He said that may have been a failed attempt to undercut the change by forcing a second vote.

Both petition backers and Begich have said the initiative, if successful at the polls, would shrink the amount of property taxes available for city and school services by about $16 million. This could be a tough sell during a year in which a $17 million deficit in the municipal budget already exists. If approved by voters, the revised tax cap would phase in over three years.

Signature-gatherers will be fielding petitions at various hot spots around Anchorage during the next month. The most likely locations will be the Loussac Library and Barnes & Noble; in addition, petitions are also being deployed at the Carr's on Huffman, the Carr's in Eagle River, and the Skybridge in the Fifth Avenue Mall downtown. Only registered Alaska voters may sign the petition.

1 comment:

  1. what's with the muslim sitting on the bag? didn't realize we had them running the show here in alaskie.