Following the approval of next year’s budget at last week’s Borough Assembly meeting, the assembly met again on Monday to approve the property tax rate and take up a motion to reconsider the $1 million cut to school district funding.
Up first was approving the mill rate, which the assembly must determine by June 15 of each year, and which has received much opposition from the public.
Public commenter Judi Kidder sums up the concern with raising taxes during the COVID-19 pandemic:
“We just don’t know how many businesses are going to survive this thing, and people are out of work. They don’t know if those jobs are going to come back. They just don’t know how long this is going to happen. And if we get another wave of this, we’re going to be in worse off shape no matter what assistance is coming down the pipe.”
The assembly was considering an increase to the mill rate from the current 10.75 mills to 12.70 mills, an increase of nearly 20%.
Assembly member Duane Dvorak proposed to revise the mill rate to 2.75 mills for the general fund; 6.45 mills for the education fund; 1.55 mills for debt service; and 0 mils for the replacement and renewal fund. The areawide base mill rate stays the same at 10.75 mills.
Assembly member Dvorak: “Last meeting we adopted a budget. I feel like this ordinance is the one that most completely completes that effort and matches up with the numbers that were approved there. And I feel this is the logical place to start the discussion.”
But the discussion was brief. The property tax rate was unanimously approved by the assembly. While the overall areawide mill rate will not change, the general fund mill rate was increased to help cover budget amendments to the general fund approved last week, such as funding for the Jump Start program at Kodiak College.
The property tax is expected to raise over $15 million.
The final budget-related item that the assembly looked at was the reconsideration of school district funding. Before voting, however, Mayor Bill Roberts introduced a legal opinion on the motion to reconsider, which declared the motion out of order.
“According to our lawyer, it would be out of order to reconsider this as the deadline for that resolution has passed. That we had 30 days to give the school district an answer and so the resolution has presumably been to be acted upon.”
Assembly person Scott Arndt, who introduced the reconsideration, reasoned that, even though the deadline has passed to approve school district funding, the motion is about increasing the amount to the school district, not reconsidering the entire amount.
“There is basically nothing to preclude us from increasing that funding to the school district, even after the fact.”
After a short discussion, Mayor Roberts eventually ruled the motion out of order, but noting that any increase to the school district allocation can be taken up at future budget revision sessions.