On Monday evening, assembly member Michelle Bonnet Hale introduced an amendment to reduce the mill rate for the 2021 property tax levy to 10.56. The measure passed and the .10 reduction will reduce 2021 property taxes by about $10 on every $100,000 of valuation. (Dana Zigmund / Juneau Empire)

On Monday evening, assembly member Michelle Bonnet Hale introduced an amendment to reduce the mill rate for the 2021 property tax levy to 10.56. The measure passed and the .10 reduction will reduce 2021 property taxes by about $10 on every $100,000 of valuation. (Dana Zigmund / Juneau Empire)

CBJ Assembly changes course, lowers property tax rate

Lower rates mean savings for homeowners

City and Borough of Juneau property taxpayers will see a tax break next year.

At Monday night’s meeting, assembly members agreed to reduce the mill rate for the 2021 property tax levy to 10.56, a .10 reduction based on what the finance committee passed in late May, as part of the annual budget process.

The measure passed 8-1, with long-serving Assembly member Loren Jones, the sole assembly member to dissent.

Committee votes to keep property tax rate the same

The initial budget called for a .02 mill increase to help fund child care programs, a priority of Mayor Beth Weldon. However, as the budget process unfolded, increasing commercial valuations and an influx of federal money changed the city’s financial picture.

In May, CBJ’s Finance Director, Jeff Rogers, told the assembly that based on the new property valuation, the city could set the mill rate as low as 10.4 and still collect the revenue needed to cover the city’s expenses.

At that time, assembly members discussed reducing the mill rate, but the measure failed in favor of maintaining the 10.66 mill rate currently in effect.

Assembly member Michelle Bonnet Hale reintroduced the lower rate Monday night, citing rapidly improving economic conditions and a better-than-expected forecast for cruise ship passengers. In her amendment, she specifically pointed out that 0.1 mills should be earmarked for childcare programs and that the reduction be taken from the areawide millage rate.

Each .1 reduction decreases taxes by about $10 on every $100,000 of valuation. With this change, taxes on a $500,000 house will fall by about $50 a year, according to an example Rogers shared with the assembly at a previous meeting.

Hale acknowledged that the reduction is modest, but said it’s still important.

“We are not in business to make money. We don’t want to make money on the backs of our taxpayers,” she said in an interview during a meeting break.

Wrestling with a taxing issue: Increased value of commercial properties could reduce property tax rates

Changing perspectives

Assembly members who had previously opposed the reduction reported a change of heart, clearing the way for the new mill rate to pass.

“I was opposed at first. But, things have improved,” said Assembly member Maria Gladziszewski. “I’m nervous but hopeful that optimistic predictions will bear out.”

Fellow Assembly member Wade Bryson also supported the change.

“Right now, wood is astronomical, so home values are going to go up. This is the right time to discuss and pass this. If there was ever a time to reduce the rate, this is the time,” he said.

During previous attempts to lower the rate, Jones, who will be leaving the assembly this year due to term limits, encouraged the committee members to think long-term. He maintained his position Monday.

“I’m sorry that it passed. I can’t support this,” Jones said.

• Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at dana.zigmund@juneauempire.com or 907-308-4891.

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