October / 2010
It's all about efficiency, accountability and affordability in this issue of Anchorage Update. We've been very busy preparing the proposed 2011 budget, while simultaneously looking for ways to become more efficient and accountable to taxpayers. Now that the budget and other related documents are public and available online, I invite you to send any feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow me on facebook or twitter.
2011 Proposed Budget Holds the Line on Property Taxes
Last week I provided an overview of my proposed 2011 budget to Assembly members following months of preparation.
My budget reflects a commitment to taxpayers. The Community Budget Dialogues that we hosted in August sent several very clear messages. First, the public told us that they want city government to be more efficient. To that end, we have initiated numerous measures to re-organize departments, leverage technology to achieve efficiencies and greater productivity.
Second, the public said loud and clear that if there was to be any increase in taxes, they preferred to tax things that people use rather than what they own, like property. Sales tax and specific product taxes were the most mentioned alternatives to property tax. A tobacco tax is currently on the table for the Assembly to consider, and, if it passes, is estimated to raise approximately $5 million in new revenue.
If we were to tax citizens to the maximum amount allowed by law next year, property taxes would increase by nearly $15 million, and this still would not close the multi-million dollar gap between spending and revenue. This is not a viable option in a sluggish economy, or in any economy for that matter.
As a result, our proposed 2011 budget includes a modest $3.7 million increase in property taxes (1.6 percent) and most of that is for voter-approved maintenance and operations costs associated with bond- approved projects. Property taxes are $11 million under the tax cap. A robust discussion with the Assembly regarding spending up to the tax cap will likely ensue. Some Assembly members think that by not taxing to the cap, we are "leaving money on the table". I prefer to think of it as leaving money in your wallet, so you can make your own spending decisions.
Mayor Sullivan and The Honorable Consul Javier Abud from the Mexican Consulate
The main driver of the budget gap is the cost of the now infamous labor contracts of 2008. These unprecedented five-year deals provide annual wage and benefit increases that the city simply cannot afford. In this down economy, those contracts have salary and benefit increases of eight, nine and even fifteen percent in just one year. These increases continue over the next several years as well. At a time when raises are modest or nonexistent in the private sector, it is unreasonable to have union leadership continue to demand that taxpayers take money from their family budgets to pay the costs of these unrealistic agreements. It is my hope that union leadership will survey their membership to identify any potential permanent savings they can offer to help us fill the gap this year and in the out years.
That said, last week's presentation to the Assembly was only the first stage in the budget process. I certainly expect Assembly members to offer budget amendments relating to spending and revenue, and I look forward to working cooperatively with them and members of the public to craft a final budget that we can implement on Jan. 1, 2011.
The entire proposed budget can be viewed online at www.muni.org by clicking on the Proposed 2011 Budget link under "What's New."
New Performance Measures for City Departments Bring Accountability to Government
Each day I think about how great Anchorage is as a place for families to raise children and for the opportunities we each have to achieve our hopes and dreams. I also think about the hard work it takes by Municipal employees to make our community a place in which this can happen.
The fiscal realities in which we developed the Municipality's 2011 budget will continue into 2012. Tough choices will continue to be required in order to achieve a stable level of spending that the Municipality can annually afford.
Compounding this challenge will be an expectation that the Municipality will deliver quality service at the best price. It will be important that we clearly communicate to citizens effectiveness of programs so together we can evaluate the benefits -and the cost-of city services.
Over the last few months each city department and division developed a strategic framework that communicates to citizens the purpose and effectiveness of the work done on their behalf. As part of the "Anchorage: Performance.Value.Results (PVR) initiative, each framework includes:
- Program purpose;
- Core services;
- Key accomplishment goals; and
- Performance measures by which programs will report progress in achieving their goals.
PVR is designed to communicate to citizens the services currently being delivered and the results being achieved. This accountability tool has many benefits, such as:
Communicate "bang for the buck" by reporting to taxpayers on how well services are being delivered-and at what cost.
Citizens learn how well the Municipality allocates its resources and if promised results are being achieved; and
I will have improved information to make budget decisions based on the effectiveness and efficiency of services.
I invite citizens to review each city department's frameworks as we work through the 2011 budget process, and I want to thank all of our municipal employees for the excellent job they do every day on behalf of Anchorage. You can browse the city department's frameworks at www.muni.org/mayor. Dedicated Effort to find Efficiencies in Government Underway
In an effort to find efficiencies within local government, Chief Fiscal Officer Lucinda Mahoney and I recently announced a major effort to reengineer several of the Municipality of Anchorage's (MOA) administrative functions.
Lucinda brings an extensive private sector background to civil service. As such, she applied the measurement standards widely accepted in private industry to many of the city's administrative functions. Her findings reveal that the MOA lags behind several national standards when it comes to costs to process an invoice; the number of invoices processed per full-time employee; costs to process each payroll check; and other functions. For example, the nationally established average cost to process an invoice is $5; the MOA's cost currently stands at $60. Lucinda also concluded that the MOA grant process is slow-moving and relies far too heavily on paper-intensive processes.
These numbers indicate the time is right to find efficiencies in these areas. I am confident that city employees are up to the task of turning these numbers around and making the MOA a much more efficient operation.
The city's finance department dedicated hours looking at each department's payroll and other administrative functions by conducting "time in motion" studies; comparing data to national benchmarks; and developing plans for new, more efficient processes. The next step moves toward the ultimate goal of creating a paperless environment and consolidating currently scattered services into one streamlined department.
On the positive side, Lucinda's decision last year to direct deposit employees' paychecks has resulted in the MOA earning a "world class" designation for percent of payroll using such a service.
We've been working at finding efficiencies since day one, and this data gives us clear direction on steps we can implement immediately. We owe it to the public to do the best we can as efficiently as possible, and we are dedicated to doing just that.
Mayor Sullivan helps cut the ribbon opening the new Mountain View Library
- Oct 9
Mayor's Charity Ball
- Oct 11
AK Academy of Physician Assistants Conference
- Oct 12
Regular Assembly meeting
632 West 6th Avenue, Anchorage Alaska 99501