Blind to the handwriting
Property taxpayers in Anchorage are getting their tax bills and Mayor Ethan Berkowitz is seizing the opportunity to send an unabashed, baldfaced political harangue along with the levy.
“Dear neighbor,” it starts, “The Governor and members of the Legislature have announced intentions to sidestep their prior commitments to voter approved bond-debt reimbursement, shifting those costs to Anchorage taxpayers. If the State chooses to make this change, Anchorage property tax payers will be forced to assume an additional $328 million in debt over 20 years, resulting in an additional payment next year of $120 per $100,000 of assessed valuation.
“This would mean an additional $420 for the average home in Anchorage ($350,000).”
Berkowitz’s message says nothing about the city knowing those promised school bond reimbursements were, at best, iffy when the bonds were peddled to the public. It fails to mention that the state is going broke and has no money to share with cities; that everybody in the state could see that coming for years. And it most certainly says nothing – horrors! – about down-sizing city government, if necessary, to match revenues rather than jacking up taxes.
From where we sit, that $328 million albatross is largely the city’s doing. It was much too willing to spend on a promise, and it spent like a drunken sailor while the state was sending money. As the party ends, the whining begins. To be blunt, Berkowitz’s missive simply is another round of passing the buck.
The rest of his message to taxpayers sounds even more blatantly like a stump speech:
“This year, despite the cost-shifting taking place at the State, the Municipality of Anchorage is holding property taxes steady at the local level,” Berkowitz said.
“We continue prioritizing public safety, and with 100 more police officers at APD, we are now assigning our patrol beats with Community Council boundaries—which means familiar APD faces in your neighborhood on a regular basis. Outside of our investment in public safety, the Municipality has reduced its overall general government spending and staffing levels. We will continue working to make Anchorage safe, secure and strong.”
That’s great news, we suppose. Now, do it with the money you have and quit blaming the state for the city’s blatant failure to read the-handwriting on the wall.