North Pole’s City Council advanced an ordinance Monday to boost the city’s property tax by about 67 percent in the coming year. The council also unanimously adopted an ordinance also would boost fees the city charges for ambulance transports.
Mayor Bryce Ward says the city needs additional revenues to pay for rising costs, especially for emergency services.
“We look at cost of operations when it comes to running the police and fire department – just city operations in general,” he said.
Ward says the tax and fee hikes aren’t motivated by cuts in state funding to the city. But he says continued cuts may require city officials to make hard decisions on how to respond.
“There’s definitely an understanding that some of the decisions that are made at the state level could have further impact to the city’s budget,” the mayor said. “But for the most part, it’s just based on operations and continuing the services that we have.”
Council members initially considered boosting the 1.499 mill rate to 1.999. But they ended up approving a full mill increase, to 2.499. The council approved Councilman Avery Thompson’s amendment to increase the mill-rate hike on a 6-to-1 vote, with Ward dissenting.
North Pole’s police and fire department budgets are the two biggest line items in the city’s nearly $5.9 million operating budget.
The council will consider final approval of the ordinance after a public hearing during its Dec. 4 meeting.
Also Monday, the council approved an ordinance that increases fees for ambulance transports from $900 to a $1,000. It also boosted ambulance-transport discounts for city residents from $720 to $900.
The measure also establishes $250 fee for police and fire response to false alarms. The fee would be charged after five previous responses to false alarms at that residence or business within a calendar year.