The current Juneau City Hall, which municipal leaders say is outdated and costly to rent. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)

The current Juneau City Hall, which municipal leaders say is outdated and costly to rent. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)

My Turn: Glory Hall or new City Hall, that is the question

The relentless drumbeat of the outgoing city manager may leave the CBJ in financial ruin because he has pressed forward with the FY24 budget with $10 million going to the manager’s office to fund a new City Hall which the voters turned down. Inflation is not part of the discussion pushing the cost way up over previous estimates. Oversight that’s not part of the discussion. Pushing a new bond initiative of $50 million against the will of the people because of increased costs will happen. Interest rates have shot up and the bond financing available years ago is gone and a new pro forma will mean the costs have skyrocketed.

Wow! Just think how much affordable housing could be built, the beautification of our streets and promotion of our city as the Indigenous capital of the world with $50 million. Use the slush fund created by the outgoing CBJ administration for altruistic uses and save it for a rainy day when property assessments come down and the CBJ will be ordered to pay back property owners. There is great cause for concern and liability exposure because of the misdeeds of the outgoing administration.

Through backroom dealing the Assembly is allocating $50,000 to “educate” the public of why a new City Hall is needed. We had our education and voted the new City Hall down. This is not “education.” This is “re-education” that only happens in China. The slap in our face of spending fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) to promote passage of a referendum that may well cause a default and financial hardship on Juneau is nothing more than a campaign contribution from the Assembly. This campaign contribution is a gift to the departing city manager. Why not allocate the $50,000 to another hall, not a new city hall, but the Glory Hall. The Glory Hall needs funding to stay open and provide much needed services.

Moreover, the bond referendum is backed by the value of your property. Your property is not worth what the assessor has valued it. The bond referendum is underwater from the get go. This is poor policy and poor financial planning.

Lowering the mill rate masks the over-assessing of property that is the hallmark of the current city manager. The headline of a lower mill rate sounds good on the surface but masks the aggression from the city manager to over-assess property and take your hard-earned money. They knew the surest way to increase the budget was not by raising the mill rate which was capped. The only avenue open to them was over-assessing property. Lowering the mil rate is no great savings to property when they have been gouged with over-assessment. We are rooted in the Juneau community and wish to be treated in a transparent way. Use and apply professional standards to assess CBJ property.

A word to the hopeful city managers: please address the imbalance between assessed property values and fair market value.

The old administration ran roughshod over property owners. The outgoing CBJ administration was very sophisticated and skilled at over-assessing property as a sure way to increase the CBJ budget. Reducing the mill rate does not rectify the decades of over assessment. The weird and unprofessional mass appraisal method employed by the previous administration was applied by cherry-picking properties to get high values. Our properties are nowhere near the assessed values. We protested, appealed, spent our hard-earned money, prepared and participated in hearings that were a charade — we are in disbelief and without a voice. The CBJ has created a slush fund on the backs of property owners. Reducing the mill rate is a micro-measure and by no means addresses the systematic over-taxation of property owners.

We ask the new city manager to bring in a new assessor who follows professional standards to review property assessments. Be forewarned the budget will not have the same slush fund to work from, and pet projects that have been turned down recently or new ones will not have the funds needed to move forward, but fairness will be back in the system and Juneau will reflect the values of the people of Juneau.

Let’s take a needed step back, take control of our city away from fiefdom known as the city manager and have professionals take a look at the value of our property. This should not be a heated process, fueled by obscene numbers of appeals and scared citizens sitting on the sidelines because of the costs involved. Get real MAI appraisers to value our property, follow the rules of the International Association of Assessment Officers, not some pokey system devised in the back room called a made-up mass appraisal method. Let’s take our city back from government-mad rule.

• Greg Adler is a principal in the Goldstein Improvement Co. His family has owned property and conducted business in Juneau since the 1880s. Adler and his family also own a home on Pioneer Avenue in West Juneau. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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