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A guide to the 9 bonds and propositions on the ballot in the Anchorage city election

Mar. 13—This coverage of the Anchorage municipal election is being provided free as a public service. But we depend on reader support to produce independent reporting Alaskans can trust. Join thousands of others and subscribe now.

On top of electing a mayor and three school board members in April, Anchorage voters will choose whether to approve eight municipal bond proposals totaling more than $70.6 million, and a school district bond proposal of more than $62.3 million.

They'll also decide whether the Anchorage Health Department's chief medical officer, appointed by the mayor, should go through the Assembly confirmation process.

Bonds are generally proposed by the city annually to pay for projects and improvements beyond what it can include in its yearly budget. This year, bonds would go to some major road and transit safety improvements, building and repairing schools, establishing two new cemeteries, adding 10 public restrooms,projects to enhance the city's park and trail system and to improving Chugach State Park access.

The city repays the bond amount over time, plus interest, by property taxes. Property taxes largely fund the city's budget, and voter-approved bonds are on top of the municipal property taxing capacity. Some bonds include small increases to the tax cap, when continual maintenance and operations is required for specific projects.

If voters approve all city bonds on this year's ballot, the estimated maximum increase per $100,000 in assessed property value is $17.50 for bond debt service and a $2.05 increase to the municipal tax cap, according to a city FAQ sheet. That's about $58.65 for an owner of a $300,000 home in the Anchorage Bowl. The school district's bond would cost the same homeowner about $38.07.

But while the city issues new bonds each year, it also pays off debt each year as it retires old bonds. This year the city is paying off $38.5 million in principal. That counteracts some of the net tax impact of newly-approved bonds, helping to balance the tax burden on property owners.

Voter-approved bonds aren't generally issued right away, so it usually takes one to two years before taxpayers see an impact to their bill.

Ballots are scheduled to be mailed to voters on Tuesday, and April 2 is the final day to vote.

Prop. 1: Anchorage School District capital improvements bond — $62.4 million

The Anchorage School District is asking voters to approve a $62.37 million bond to help replace Inlet View Elementary School and for roof replacements, seismic and security upgrades at other schools. The bond would cost property taxpayers approximately $12.69 per $100,000 in assessed value.

[Anchorage School Board approves $62 million bond proposal that includes money for new Inlet View Elementary]

Projects include roof replacements, structural and seismic upgrades at Alpenglow Elementary School, Central Middle School and Chugiak High School. The bond would pay for security vestibules and security improvements at Kasuun, Lake Hood and Klatt elementary schools, and renovation design for Romig Middle School.

About $19 million would fund part of the cost of the Inlet View rebuild in the South Addition neighborhood. About $43 million would go to the upgrades at other schools.

In 2022, a $111 million school bond that included $31 million for Inlet View's replacement narrowly failed.

The total cost of the Inlet View project is estimated at $50 million, and over the summer the school board allocated $26 million in funds from a one-time school bond debt reimbursement package from the Alaska Legislature toward the project.

Prop. 2: Anchorage Assembly confirmation of the municipality's chief medical officer

This proposition is asking residents to revise the municipality's charter in order to require Anchorage Assembly confirmation of the city's top health official, the chief medical officer of the Anchorage Health Department.

[Anchorage ballot measure on chief medical officer has roots in pandemic disputes between mayor and Assembly]

Currently, the chief medical officer is selected by the mayor, but does not undergo the confirmation process that other top city executives go through. The proposition, if approved, would mean that future chief medical officers chosen by the mayor would also go through Assembly confirmation.

Proponents of the charter revision say it would bring the important chief medical officer position in line with the public process for installing other department heads and top public safety officials. Mayor Dave Bronson has opposed the idea, saying that it infringes on the mayor's executive authority.

The chief medical officer is the city government's top medical advisor on issues concerning public health. The doctor provides guidance to the Anchorage Health Department and oversees its many medical programs, including its immunizations and vaccines at the public health clinic, reproductive health care services and testing for sexually transmitted diseases.

Usually an important but behind-the-scenes position, the COVID-19 pandemic thrust the chief medical officer and the health department into a much more prominent public role.

Prop. 3: Anchorage roads and storm drainage bond — $47.1 million

The city is proposing a $47.1 million bond for more than two dozen improvement projects in the Anchorage Bowl. It would cost property taxpayers in the road service area an estimated $12.43 per $100,000 in assessed value. The roads and storm drainage bond is an annual proposition.

Among the many projects, the list includes:

—$5 million for a snow disposal site in West Anchorage;

—$1 million for snow removal equipment;

—$7 million for resurfacing a stretch of East Northern Lights Boulevard from Lake Otis Parkway to Bragaw Street;

—An $8.6 million upgrade to East 42nd Avenue, from Lake Otis Parkway to Florina Street;

—$3.8 million for phase two of a project to resurface East 36th Avenue from Latouche Street to Lake Otis Parkway;

—And $4 million in upgrades to lighting and signals in downtown.

Prop. 4: Anchorage Parks and Recreation capital improvements bond — $4.4 million

A $4.35 million bond, if approved, would fund projects and improvements at 13 different parks and trail areas in the Anchorage Bowl.

For property taxpayers in the Anchorage Parks and Recreation Service Area, it would mean an estimated annual increase of $1.04 per $100,000 in assessed value, and an annual increase in the municipal tax cap of about $0.75 per $100,000 in assessed value, to pay for ongoing maintenance and operations. Taxpayers in parts of the Anchorage Hillside, and in Girdwood, Eagle River, Chugiak and Birchwood would not be affected.

Projects include, among others:

—$1.5 million for the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail to Ship Creek Trail connection project.

—$600,000 for improvements at Russian Jack Springs Park. Those projects include disability access improvements, chalet area upgrades, paved trail rehabilitation and bridge replacement, and lighting, among others.

—$350,000 to improve and enhance safety at Mountain View's neighborhood park.

—$300,000 for a multi-year project to improve Campbell Creek Trail, including for resurfacing with new asphalt, drainage improvements, bridge replacements and new wayfinding signs.

—$300,000 for renovations in city playgrounds, including upgrading play equipment and safety surfacing.

Prop. 5: Public safety (police) bond — $1.5 million

This $1.5 million bond would fund a project to reconstruct the roof and renovate the heating system at the Anchorage Police Department's Elmore Station.

It would cost $0.31 per $100,000 of assessed value for property taxpayers in the metropolitan police service area, which encompasses all areas of the municipality north of McHugh Creek, including the Anchorage Bowl, Eagle River, Birchwood and Chugiak.

Prop. 6: Public safety and transit capital improvements bond — $4.6 million

A $4.56 million bond would pay for numerous projects to improve city transportation services and traffic safety. Those include $1 million for traffic calming projects. Other improvements include: traffic signals and signs, school zone safety, transit facilities and bus stops, transit fleet, equipment and vehicle replacement.

If approved, the bond would result in an estimated annual increase of $0.93 per $100,000 of assessed taxable property value and an annual increase in the tax cap of about $0.33.

Prop 7: Cemetery capital improvements bond — $4.1 million

Anchorage is running out of public burial space. The city has proposed a $4.1 million bond to establish cemeteries in Girdwood and Eagle River and to improve the Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery downtown.

The bond would cost property taxpayers an annual increase of about $0.83 per $100,000 in assessed value. It would also increase the municipal tax cap by approximately $0.01 annually, to pay for operation and maintenance costs.

Planning work for a Girdwood cemetery has been ongoing for more than two decades, according to a memorandum. A tract of public land has been chosen, a schematic plan has been made, and the project is ready for construction in four phases.

The first phase would establish a cemetery ready for use, and $1.75 million of the bond would go toward the cemetery's infrastructure, clearing the land and making a trail system, constructing a parking lot and building a committal shelter and columbarium for cremains. If the bond is approved, work could begin as soon as this summer.

Similarly, planning work for a cemetery in Eagle River has been underway for more than 12 years. A site has been selected and a four-phase plan has been developed, and $1.75 million of the bond would go toward part of the first construction phase.

At Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery, $600,000 would go to equipment, improvements and renovations, including improving disability accommodations at the park.

The bond would allow work on the proposed cemeteries to begin, but more funding will be needed to complete them, and it's likely voters will see another such bond in the next few years.

Prop. 8: Public restrooms bond — $5 million

The city is asking Anchorage voters whether they want to see up to 10 modular-style public bathrooms purchased and installed around the city, with a $5 million bond.

[$5M bond for 10 public restrooms will be on Anchorage election ballots]

Anchorage currently offers just a handful of public restrooms, and they're largely port-a-potties. Supporters of the measure say the lack of facilities is often problematic for tourists, city residents and people using the city's extensive park and trail system. The burden often falls to local businesses to provide restrooms. Supporters also say that the type of facilities will stand up well to public use, help to keep parks and trails clean and alleviate public health issues, especially for homeless residents who don't have regular access to bathrooms. While critics have questioned the facilities' price tag, supporters say the cost of port-a-potties and cleanup also add up.

If approved, the city would use a public procurement process to purchase the modular-style bathrooms, possibly Portland Loos from Oregon-based company Madden Fabrication, or other similar bathrooms from another company.

The bond would increase property taxes by $1.01 per $100,000 in assessed value. The proposition also calls for increasing the tax cap by up to $300,000 to pay for annual maintenance and operations, which would be an increase of $0.79 per $100,000 in assessed value.

Prop. 9: Chugach State Park access improvements bond — $4 million

As a way to begin solving longstanding problems with access points for Chugach State Park and lack of infrastructure, Anchorage voters last year approved a new bonding and taxing mechanism for making improvements — the Chugach Access Service Area, or CASA.

This year, voters will decide whether to approve the first such CASA bond. If passed, the city would issue up to $4 million in bonds for access improvements to a popular hiking area on the south side of Flattop Mountain.

The project would recondition and pave Canyon Road from its intersection with Echo Canyon Road to the boundary of Chugach State Park. The area leads to the primary access point for the Sunnyside trail, which zig-zags the back side of Flattop, along with trails to Peak 2, Peak 3, Ptarmigan Tarn, and the Rabbit Lake trail. The project would add roadside parking.

This bond would cost property taxpayers in the Anchorage Bowl an annual increase of $0.95 per $100,000 in assessed value. It would not increase taxes for voters in the municipality outside of the Anchorage bowl, such as in Girdwood and Eagle River.