Matanuska-Susitna Borough

Assembly reduces spending, holds areawide tax

Mat-Su | Patty Sullivan | Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The new areawide mill rate, 9.956, is just under this year’s mill rate of 9.98. Assembly Members lowered the mill rate for the non-areawide levy to 0.394. Areawide taxes pay for services in the Borough and cities such as emergency medical, planning, parks and recreation. Non-areawide services are outside the cities such as libraries and animal care. A mill levy is the number of dollars a taxpayer pays for every $1,000 of assessed value.

The MAT-SU Borough is the fastest growing community in Alaska with 42 percent growth since the year 2000. Each year the demands for services increase. Local property owners bear the responsibility for $8.26 million in unfunded state mandates for property tax exemptions for seniors and disabled veterans.

Among the increases, emergency responders will receive a six percent pay hike for a total of some $615,000, which will be taken from the existing emergency services department budget. Nearly all emergency responders are paid only when training and responding to an incident. Most hold other jobs. A basic level firefighter earns $8.08 an hour.

Two new positions were approved at the Borough, a district fire chief and a financial analyst. Five positions were asked for.

This year Borough Manager John Duffy proposed an increase in local school funding to $46.94 million. Assembly Member Vern Halter sponsored an amendment that raised the increase to a total of $3 million over last year. Assembly Member Jim Colver added another $250,000. Both amendments passed.

Assembly Members rolled back many fire and road service area mill rates to last year’s tax levies.

Overtime was cut in half for most Borough divisions by a veto of Borough Mayor Talis Colberg. Originally Assembly Member Ron Arvin sponsored an amendment to cut all overtime. Many night meetings for Borough business are held.

Radio Free Palmer recorded much of the final deliberations on May 18. A link to it is on the front of the Borough web site at