Juneau Assembly passes budget with historically low property tax rate

Tourists walk past City Hall in downtown Juneau on Tuesday, June 4, 2024. (Clarise Larson/KTOO)

Members of the Juneau Assembly have approved a city spending plan for next year that will lower the property tax rate and maintain current city services.

During a special meeting Monday evening, members unanimously approved the City and County of Juneau’s budget and rate for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The budget includes funding for things like schools, the city hospital, the airport, Eaglecrest Ski Area and docks and harbors.

Next year’s rate will be 10.04, which is lower than last year’s rate of 10.16 and the 10.28 rate the city manager originally suggested.

Assembly Member Greg Smith said it took a lot of compromises to reach that number.

“We had to get a vote of five to set the mill rate, there was a lot of back and forth – some wanted it higher, some wanted it lower – this is where we ended up,” he said.

A mill rate determines how much property tax residents pay to the city. One mill equals $1 per $1000 in terms of real estate value. This means that for every $1,000 of taxable property value, there would be a tax of $10.04 next year.

Next year’s figure is the lowest in decades. To keep interest rates low without spending savings, members used creative thinking to take some money from a fund set up to build a new city hall — until voters shot down that idea again last year.

Although the rate passed unanimously, member Alicia Hughes-Skandijs expressed some hesitation about lowering it for several reasons. She said one of those is the financial crisis that community hospital Bartlett Regional Hospital is experiencing.

“You know, throughout the process where we’ve all done a lot of work, I’ve been advocating for a higher production rate. This gives me some nerves and some hesitation, but I’m not going to hold on to my objection just because this is the work of the committee,” she said.

The budget also includes a $518,000 loan to Eaglecrest to cover a deficit and provide a slight raise for employees. And it invests the money the city collects through sales taxes and maritime passenger fees in the right direction dozens of local projects.

Only one resident gave public testimony on the budget during the meeting. Joshua Adams said he didn’t want the General Assembly to take money out of the city 1% temporary sales tax towards the Telephone Hill redevelopment project. He said he would prefer the money go to child care and affordable housing.

“Affordable housing and childcare are the reason people voted for the 1% sales tax, not Telephone Hill,” he said.

The Assembly kept the money for Telephone Hill in the budget.