Wanamaker to propose mill rate cap decrease for ballot

Voters could see an initiative on the October ballot asking if they’d like the city’s mill rate to be capped at 11.5 mills per dollar of assessed value instead of 12.

Assembly Member Randy Wanamaker has announced a proposal that would have the city attorney draft an ordinance to do so. The Assembly will consider the question — whether to send the measure to the voters — at Wednesday’s Finance Committee meeting. It meets at 5:30 p.m. in Assembly Chambers.

Wanamaker said he’s got several reasons for proposing the idea to the voters.

“In the beginning of the year, the Assembly had a survey conducted on the budget,” Wanamaker said. “It was done by the McDowell Group. Over 70 percent of the people responding said they would prefer the city reduce costs for services rather than increase fees. In the budget process, the city has proposed a budget that increases the mill rate, increases fees and uses one-time money. ... I think that the Assembly needs to consider what it is the voters want. What do the citizens want? Are we tracking closely enough with them or are we not in touch with them the way they need to be?”

Wanamaker said that through the years, housing assessments have been going up.

“The Assembly has been proud of the fact it has kept the mill rate the same,” Wanamaker said. “People are paying more because their assessments keep going up, yet we keep the mill rate the same. Citizens are experiencing a double hit this year. I want to give the citizens a chance to say, we want to lower the cap. There would still enough room there for the Assembly to operate the city at current levels, and we definitely have incentive to find more ways be more efficient.”

Wanamaker said one of those incentives would be to grow businesses and the population of Juneau.

“If you have more people and more businesses paying taxes, the amount of taxes each of them needs to pay is less,” he said. “I think we need to broaden our tax base and lower the taxes we pay.”

Wanamaker said it’s likely the Assembly members will discuss the impact of lowering the rate — or even the necessity, but he said that’s not what the question ultimately is. The question is — should they let the voters decide?

“I’d be surprised if any Assembly member was opposed to letting voters decide the question,” Wanamaker said.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.

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