City Finance Director Bob Bartholomew, center, speaks during a special Assembly meeting with the Juneau legislative delegation in the Assembly chambers in January 2016.

City Finance Director Bob Bartholomew, center, speaks during a special Assembly meeting with the Juneau legislative delegation in the Assembly chambers in January 2016.

Despite lower mill rate, property taxes expected to go up

In late March, several Juneau residents expressed concern about how the city’s generally increasing property assessments would impact their property taxes. The Assembly has now answered that question.

The Assembly set the mill rate at 10.66 mills with a 5–4 vote at its meeting Monday night. That means that a Juneau resident who owns a $300,000 home will pay $3,198 in property taxes.

The 10.66 mill rate is slightly lower than last year’s mill rate of 10.76, meaning that if your home’s assessed value didn’t increase at all from last year, you’ll be paying $30 less in property taxes.

For the majority of homeowners, however, assessed values went up.

The total assessed property value for all homes and business in the city increased by 4.4 percent over last year. And the assessed values of residential homes went up by about 6 percent, City Manager Rorie Watt said Monday night at the CBJ Assembly meeting.

Even though the mill rate dropped, the city’s Finance Director Bob Bartholomew told the Empire that most people can expect a slight property tax increase.

His original recommendation to the Assembly was to lower the mill rate to 10.51 mills — .15 mills less than the rate it adopted.

In December, he planned for a 2 percent increase in assessed property values. If the mill rate remained unchanged, that would have yielded a $1 million increase in property taxes for the city.

When Bartholomew found out the assessed property values had actually increased by 4.4 percent, yielding a potential $2.2 million increase in tax revenue under the old mill rate, he decided to lower the rate.

“We didn’t need that much revenue to balance the budget, so we backed off the mill rate,” Bartholomew told the Empire in April. “The average person will see property tax increases, but they won’t be as large as the change in their property values.”

At a May 11 Finance Committee meeting, the Assembly decided, with a split vote, to reject Bartholomew’s proposal and leave the mill rate at 10.76 mills. Staring down the state’s $4 billion budget gap and mounting fiscal uncertainty, the Assembly decided to be safe rather than sorry.

Assembly member Loren Jones lowered that rate by a tenth of a mill Monday night, a change that Assembly member Jesse Kiehl supported but said didn’t go as far as he would like.

“I have a philosophical problem with taxing at a mill rate higher than what we need for the operations of government,” Kiehl said, speaking in favor of Jones’ amendment. “I’m willing to compromise, but I think it’s important that we not take up the slack left by lowering the debt service mill levy as we pay off bonds without a good reason.”

Predicting the arguments of several of his peers, including Assembly members Kate Troll and Maria Gladziszewski, Kiehl said the state’s impending fiscal woes are not a good enough reason.

He said, “We’re OK for the hard times coming.”

The mill rate the Assembly set will yield $48.7 million in property taxes. That’s $300,000 less than leaving the mill rate as it currently sits but $700,000 more than Bartholomew’s suggested rate would yield.

Here’s the mill-rate vote break-down:

In favor of Jones’ amendment lowering the mill rate from 10.76 to 10.66 mills

• Mary Becker

• Loren Jones

• Maria Gladziszewski

• Jesse Kiehl

• Ken Koelsch

 

Opposed to Jones’ amendement

• Jamie Bursell

• Jerry Nankervis

• Kate Troll

• Debbie White

 

In favor of setting the mill rate as amended

• Mary Becker

• Loren Jones

• Maria Gladziszewski

• Jesse Kiehl

• Ken Koelsch

 

Opposed to setting the mill rate as amended

• Jamie Bursell

• Jerry Nankervis

• Kate Troll

• Debbie White

• Contact reporter Sam DeGrave at 523-2279 or sam.degrave@juneauempire.com.

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