AKWatchdog: Budget forums target police department for cuts

Sin taxes and cuts to the Anchorage Police Department dominated public forums for the Municipality of Anchorage Fiscal Year 2012 budget.

After the Municipality of Anchorage hosted a series of public forums on the upcoming FY 2012 budget, a report on the discussions reveals many taxpayers would like to see budget cuts within the police department.

With an estimated city budget shortfall of up to $18 million, the forums gave Anchorage residents an opportunity to give input on service cuts or increases and different forms and levels of taxation.

“One of the main areas targeted for budget reductions was the police department,” Erkmann said.

Citing everything from multiple officers responding to minor car accidents to officers earning overtime while patrolling construction zones, Erkmann said forum participants believed the department was one of the city’s most inefficient, and could achieve the same level of safety with far less funding.

Director of Management and Budget Cheryl Frasca said the report also revealed many Anchorage residents would be comfortable paying increased taxes.

“Looking at the questionnaire surveys, people like the services they have,” Frasca said. “They’re willing to pay more taxes, up to the cap, but the least acceptable avenue would be property taxes.”

In lieu of a property tax increase, Erkmann said forum participants discussed everything from wholesale alcohol taxes to sales taxes to increased bed taxes.

“Through either seasonal taxes or “sin taxes,” there is an appetite for increasing the amount of money going to the city,” Erkmann said. “The thing that stood out the most was the desire to diversify the tax base.”

The proposed budget is set to be released October 1, and the official report on the budget forum findings is scheduled to be released September 15.

By Kirsten Adams

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