The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Finance Committee voted down a property tax increase during a Wednesday night virtual meeting. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire File)

The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Finance Committee voted down a property tax increase during a Wednesday night virtual meeting. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire File)

Finance committee votes to hold line on property tax

Uncertain future makes for cautious planning

The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Finance Committee voted Wednesday night not to increase the property taxes.

“The tax rates stayed flat. We were able to use the federal CARES act funding beneficially,” said City Manager Rorie Watt in a phone interview. “We were able to get child care funding off the ground. Both swimming pools will remain in operation. People should be happy.”

The committee voted down an increase of .1 mill, which would have meant a $10 increase in tax collected for every $100,000 of assessed value. That failed increase was amended from a proposed increase of 1 mill.

“There’s zero change to the current rate,” said CBJ Assembly member Loren Jones in a phone interview. “We were able to hold the line on property tax, though I voted against it. I think we’re going to need it”

Similarly, proposed facilities and maintenance funding in the amount of $90,000 was voted down. Many of the committee’s decisions were motivated by a cautious approach toward an uncertain future, Jones said.

A motion to free up money from the affordable housing fund for use was voted down 5-4.

“We have within the city and borough an affordable housing fund. What was being proposed to take money out of the fund and have that made available in grants. The money stays in the fund,” Jones said. “We’re not sure what the housing market is going to be. Given the covid and lack of construction, there’s a downturn in the permits being requested. We wanted to be more cautious.”

The request for the housing fund was that money would be made available for use. The vote means that the money will stay in the fund for needs that may be more dire in the future, Jones said. The city also pushed back a number of projects, including the renovation of the Augustus Brown Swimming Pool, by a year.

A Sealaska Heritage Institute request for $1.5 million for a new arts campus downtown was also postponed following a request by SHI. A motion for the mayor and city manager to write a letter affirming the city’s continued support of the project was passed unanimously.

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“They can say the city is in a tough financial situation, but they still support the project,” Jones said.

Finally, a motion to provide $400,000 to support the childcare industry, roughly half a year’s funding, was passed. The other half comes from CARES Act funding made available to the city.

“It’s very important for businesses that workers have the availability of childcare. Having childcare is very important,” Jones said. “Childcare is facing a lot of extra expenses. We’re using the CARES money to get them started, to help them reopen, to build up capacity. But the CARES money has to be expended by Dec 31.”

Jones said that hopefully, Juneau residents won’t be feeling too many changes from the decisions made Wednesday night.

“Projects will still go on. Services will still go on,” Jones said. “We will see some effects next year and the summer beyond there. It’ll be more how we manage the businesses opening, how we help businesses stay viable until next year. There’s no changes in the tax structure. Hopefully the daycare will help people go back to work.”

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757.621.1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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