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Anchorage State of the City Feedback Requested

Recently I gave a "State of the City" update to the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce. It's an annual tradition where the mayor provides business leaders with a review of the past year and an update about what municipal officials are doing to foster economic development in Anchorage. Below you'll find excerpts from the speech. Feel free to send me feedback at mayor@muni.org, or follow me on facebook or twitter.

State of the City: A long-term plan for fiscal sustainability

The Municipality of Anchorage (MOA) manages an enormous number of assets. Here are some interesting statistics about what falls under municipal purview:
  • $7 billion in assets
  • $2 billion in debt
  • ~3,000 employees
  • 76 buildings
  • 13 fire stations
  • 8 ambulances
  • 55 buses
  • 60 vanpool pans
  • 459 police vehicles
  • The Performing Arts Center
  • Anchorage Museum
  • Dena'ina Center
  • Sullivan Arena
  • Merrill Field
  • Port of Anchorage
The MOA also provides:
  • Electricity to 30,700 citizens
  • Award-winning clean water to 270,000 citizens
The MOA also manages:
  • 250 miles of bike trails
  • 1,300 road lane miles
  • 200 miles of sidewalks
  • 10,946 acres of parks
  • 2 senior centers
  • 7 swimming pools
  • 3 ice arenas
  • 11 recreational facilities
  • 110 athletic fields
  • 6 libraries
  • 4 parking garages
  • Landfill
My administration and I have been in office for just more than a year now. In that time, we've taken important steps to make city government more efficient. Part of that effort resulted from the challenge we walked into in 2009. Just about a month after entering office, we discovered a $9 million shortfall for the remaining six months of the year; this was in addition to the $17 million shortfall already addressed by Acting Mayor Claman and his staff.
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Adding to the challenge was a $100 million unfunded liability to the police and fire retirement fund, and city savings accounts that had been essentially wiped out. Add this to mandated increases in personnel costs, and we had our work cut out for us.

I am proud to say we met the challenge head on. An immediate travel and hiring freeze, the formation of a cost containment committee, executive pay cuts, and a small reduction in the city workforce allowed us to balance the books at the end of 2009. The effort also paid off in the form of restored city savings accounts, which in turn, boosted our bond rating by Fitch, a major rating agency.

After dealing with the 2009 challenge, it was time to tackle the 2010 budget. Because the national economy was still shaky at best, we decided to hold the lines on spending and property taxes; our logic was that in a time of financial upheaval, it wasn't fair to ask taxpayers to dig even deeper into their pockets when their own economic futures were uncertain.

We also were successful at streamlining several processes and making municipal government more efficient. We modernized and standardized several IT functions, implemented LEAN technology and asked city departments to demonstrate results to the public so that budget choices could be made more effectively. As a result, we were able to find sustainable savings while minimizing impacts to citizens. 
Courtesy: Anchorage Museum
Anchorage Museum
Even with all of that progress, a sizeable challenge remains in 2011. Because of continued stock market volatility, a drop in tourism (and the bed and car rental taxes it provides), and ever-increasing costs of paying city employees, we face a gap again in 2011. I know some people are weary of hearing about budget shortfalls and potential reductions in city government but the reality is that money coming into the city is just not keeping up with expenses. It is my job as mayor to manage our finances in a responsible way, and that's my commitment to citizens. We've hosted a number of community dialogues in order to talk to citizens about the financial challenges ahead, and I am encouraged to see so many residents engage in the process.

continued... you can see the remainder of this article "State of the City" at our website or download the original PowerPoint presentation

Mayor Dan Sullivan

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