The Juneau Assembly Finance Committee on Wednesday advanced proposals that would funnel more than $400,000 in new state money to school programs next year and cut the property tax rate to nearly offset homeowners' skyrocketing tax assessments.
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Juneau City Manager Rod Swope recommended funding education to the state's cap in fiscal year 2007, and a reduction totaling about a mill in the tax rate - if the city gets more than $2 million that the Alaska Legislature approved in Senate Bill 231. That bill awaits the governor's signature, which Swope said he expects soon.
Property tax assessments rose an average of 12 percent this year, Swope said. To compensate, he recommended cutting the current 11.17-mill tax rate by .42 mills, in addition to a .33-mill decrease previously recommended.
When the mill reduction is coupled with a year's delay in issuing voter-approved debt bonds for a new high school, the actual tax accompanying new assessments would increase just 1 or 2 percent for most property owners, Swope said.
"It won't quite neutralize it, but it comes close," he said.
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If the Assembly approves the recommendations at its June 14 meeting, the total savings to homeowners would exceed $3.6 million, he said.
Nearly $1.4 million directed to Juneau by Senate Bill 231 must go toward cost increases in the public retirement system. Out of the remaining $1.2 million, Swope recommended boosting local funding of education by $344,000 to meet a new cap, adjusted upward by the Legislature this year.
Nearly $21,000 more would go toward federally mandated transportation of homeless students, and another $63,000 would go to busing for after-school activities.
Swope recommended against $50,000 requests from the Juneau Family Birth Center and the Small Business Development Center, and an $18,500 request from Taikuu Educational Services for an ambassador pilot program assisting tourists downtown.
The Southeast Alaska Avalanche Center had requested $200,000, which Swope whittled to $30,000.
"The avalanche center said there was little they could do with the $30,000," Finance Committee member Jeff Bush said. "Do we know what they would do with the $30,000?"
"I would hope the $30,000 would provide some spring snow avalanche-danger monitoring," Swope responded. "This money could provide helicopter time so they can fly to the top of Mount Juneau and take on-site surveys during a two-month period."
Mount Juneau is where the focus should be, Swope said.
"The question is not if, but when an avalanche will occur at Mount Juneau. I hope it is not on my watch when there is a very serious avalanche."
The committee unanimously accepted Swope's suggestions.
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