Matanuska-Susitna Borough

$4M to MAT-SU if revenue sharing revived

Mat-Su | Patty Sullivan | Sunday, April 29, 2007

PALMER— The leaders of the fastest growing community in Alaska are asking state Legislators to share the record high oil revenues with local governments.

In her proposed operating budget, Gov. Sarah Palin set aside $48 million for municipalities statewide. Alaska Senators and Representatives removed the appropriation from their operating budgets. This week mayors from cities and boroughs across Alaska urged Legislators, in person, to reconsider funding the municipal revenue sharing program.

Still en route from Juneau Wednesday, Matanuska-Susitna Borough Mayor Curt Menard said he applauds Palin for having the courage to bring it back up in a press conference. "I did talk with a number of Legislators. They are seeing how parts of the puzzle come together. We're not there yet," Menard said.

"We are an owner state and all of us have ownership in the resources and we're one of the very few states that has that written into the constitution," Menard said. "So those revenues that the state collects should be passed onto the local governments and local people of the state."

MAT-SU Assembly Member Bill Allen agrees. "All the resource tax money is going into one pot and it's the state's pot. Yet it's appropriate that some of the wealth be shared with individual communities in the state," Allen said.

Menard said the MAT-SU Borough's share would be about $4 million if approved.

Revenue sharing will definitely have an effect on property taxes in the Borough, he said. "We can't do all the infrastructure development on the backs of homeowners," Menard said.

The MAT-SU is the 28th fastest growing community in the nation. Growth has long outrun investment in infrastructure. Roads, libraries, schools, an animal shelter, among other public facilities, all fall short in funding.

Assembly Member Cindy Bettine represents the Knik-Fairview area, what would be the state's fifth largest city if it were incorporated. "Unless you've served in local government it's hard to understand the day-to-day costs, such as maintenance for our failing local roads," Bettine said. "Gov. Palin has served in local government that's why she understood to put revenue sharing in the budget. This is our best hope for lowering the $255 per month that the average local resident pays in property taxes," Bettine said.

This year, the Borough will pay $5.8 million for property tax exemptions for seniors and disabled veterans. The exemptions are mandated by the state, yet not reimbursed.

For more information call Public Affairs Manager Patty Sullivan at 355-0103.