After considering raising then lowering the local property tax rate, the Juneau Assembly decided to keep it the same.
Property tax bills are calculated by multiplying the mill rate the Assembly sets by a property’s value, as determined by the Juneau Assessor’s Office each year. Ten mills is the same thing as 1%. The property tax rate on most real estate in Juneau is 10.66 mills. For a typical $300,000 home in Juneau, the annual property tax bill works out to $3,198.
City officials began the budget process this year with a lot of uncertainty about federal aid, the pandemic and the cruise ship season. The city manager proposed raising property taxes by .2 mills, and burning through about $7.8 million — a fifth of the city’s savings — to keep the city government running over the next year.
In light of federal pandemic relief money and higher-than-expected property values that became clearer over the spring, city finance officials still expected a several million dollar gap between income and spending — but a significantly smaller one at $2.8 million.
That prompted the Juneau Assembly last week to reject the manager’s proposed tax increase and debate lowering the property tax rate to 10.56 mills. That would save a property owner $30 on a $300,000 home.
Assembly member Michelle Hale suggested the tax cut.
“If not now, then when?” Hale asked. “We are in the second year of recession. We’ve had incredible benefit from the federal government to keep us whole, really. But we are in the second year of a worldwide pandemic. We’re coming out of it now. We expect to be more out of it next year, financially in particular. And that’s why we have reserves.”
Hale said she didn’t have financial relief for property owners in mind. Instead, she said she just didn’t want the government to raise more money than it needs.
Hale didn’t get enough support to lower the property tax rate. Her motion failed in a 3-6 vote. Hale, Greg Smith and Wade Bryson voted yes. Members Loren Jones, Christine Woll, Alicia Hughes-Skandijs, Maria Gladziszewski, Beth Weldon and Carole Triem voted no.
But, Assembly member Maria Gladziszewski’s push to keep the property tax rate flat passed unanimously.
“There’s still uncertainty in revenues that we’re facing, we still have a deficit,” Gladziszewski said. “But I absolutely believe it’s responsible to collect enough revenue, pay for the new thing that you’re doing. And we are doing a new thing, and that’s child care.”
She was referring to a subsidy program for child care businesses that’s intended to increase child care availability and affordability in Juneau.
City finance officials project the near-final tax rate and budget would burn through about $5.7 million of the city’s savings over the next year.
There are several pieces of the city’s budget that the Assembly will have to adopt over its next few meetings. Monday night, the Assembly plans to adopt the Juneau School District’s budget. On June 14, it plans to adopt the city’s overall operating budget, a capital budget and the property tax rate.