Juneau Assembly passes budget with historically low property tax rate

Tourists walk past City Hall in downtown Juneau on Tuesday, June 4, 2024. (Clarise Larson/KTOO)

Juneau Assembly members have approved a city spending plan for next year that lowers the property tax rate and maintains current city services.

At a special meeting Monday night, members unanimously approved the City and Borough of  Juneau’s budget and mill rate for the fiscal year that will begin July 1. The budget includes funding for things like schools, the city-owned hospital, the airport, Eaglecrest Ski Area and docks and harbors. 

Next year’s mill rate will be 10.04, which is lower than last year’s rate of 10.16 and the 10.28 rate that the city manager originally suggested.

Assembly member Greg Smith said it took a lot of compromises to get to that number.

“We had to get to a vote of five to set the mill rate, there was a lot of back and forth — some wanted it higher, some wanted it lower — this is where we got to,” he said.

A mill rate determines how much property tax residents pay to the city. One mill is equal to $1 per $1000 in property value. This means that for every $1,000 in taxable property value, there would be a tax of $10.04 for next year.

Next year’s rate is the lowest it’s been in decades. To keep the rate low without spending from savings, members used some creative thinking to pull some money from a fund that was created to build a new City Hall — until voters shot that idea down again last year. 

Although the rate passed unanimously, member Alicia Hughes-Skandijs did express some hesitancy about lowering it, for several reasons. She said one is the financial crisis that the municipally owned hospital, Bartlett Regional Hospital is going through. 

“You know, throughout the process in which we all did a lot of work, I was advocating for a higher mill rate. This gives me some nerves, some pause, but I am not going to maintain my objection just because this is the work of the committee,” she said. 

The budget also includes a $518,000 loan to Eaglecrest to cover a deficit and give a slight raise to employees. And it puts money the city collects through sales tax and marine passenger fees toward dozens of local projects. 

Only one resident gave public testimony on the budget at the meeting. Joshua Adams said he didn’t want the Assembly to put money from the city’s 1% temporary sales tax toward the Telephone Hill redevelopment project. He said he would rather have the funds instead go toward child care and affordable housing.

“Affordable housing and child care are the reason people voted for the 1% sales tax, not Telephone Hill,” he said. 

The Assembly kept the money for Telephone Hill in the budget.

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