Eklutna Valley council votes to distance itself from Eaglexit

Tuesday, October 22, 2019 - 13:44
  • Bashful Peak has new snow Sept. 14, 2019. The view, up the East Fork drainage is seen from the bridge over the river on the Eklutna River trail, past the end of the lake. (Anne Raup / ADN)

One of the six community councils representing the Chugiak-Eagle River area says it wants little to do with a movement to detach the area from the Municipality of Anchorage.

At its Oct. 15 meeting, the Eklutna Valley Community Council voted 15-1 to disassociate itself from the “Eaglexit” movement, an effort that began this spring to explore the possibility of detaching Assembly District 2 from the muni and forming its own local government.

“We’re kind of raising a red flag and saying don’t count on us,” said EVCC vice president Rick Sinnott, who drafted the resolution.

The council is the first in the area to take a position on the plan.

In its resolution, the council said it’s not convinced Eaglexit organizers can provide the same level of city services for less taxes, and points to other parts of the state that already high higher taxes than Anchorage. It also cites a 2007 study that found such a detachment would cause property taxes to rise for the same level of services, and points to relatively low rates for Chugiak-Eagle River residents relative to other Anchorage property taxpayers.

Eaglexit backers argue they could create a more efficient form of local government that would be more responsive to local concerns. They argue the 11-member Anchorage Assembly is out of touch with Chugiak-Eagle River’s typically more conservative constituency and that the area is underrepresented in local politics.

In its resolution opposing Eaglexit, the Eklutna Valley council pointed out the area — which has between 30,000 and 50,000 people depending on which areas are included — is home to 25%of Anchorage’s public high schools, has 18% of the seats on the assembly and is in line to receive the bulk of municipal and state funding to repair earthquake damaged schools.

And while the Anchorage Assembly has had a fair number of 9-2 votes against its pair of representatives in recent times, Sinnott said political winds tend to change.

“We’re in a minority as far as the conservative/liberal mix in the city right now, but in the past there’s been more conservative assemblies, too,” he said.

Property taxes in Anchorage are levied on a schedule that includes 58 different tax districts that are based on the level of services provided. Some folks in Chugiak-Eagle River pay higher than average taxes; others pay lower, with area tax levies ranging from a low of 12.11 mills near the Eagle River Nature Center (which has no fire service levy) to a high of 16.32 mills in some parts of Eagle River. The highest mill rate in the muni is paid by taxpayers in the Glen Alps fire service area, who are assessed 16.50 mills; the lowest is the 7.34 mills for Turnagain Arm area property owners without police service.

“We’re not doing too bad on the mill rate side of things,” Sinnott said.

Its resolution is generally skeptical of detachment backers’ claims, but Sinnott said the council left its “foot in the water” for Eaglexit “if they do come up with a plan where taxes don’t go up and we get the same services.”

Skeptics welcome

On Tuesday, Eaglexit chair Mike Tavoliero called the resolution “premature” and took issue with some of the points brought up in the resolution — including the assertion that detaching would be unconstitutional.

“In my opinion that is not necessarily correct,” he said, arguing that a 1970s Supreme Court ruling erred in its interpretation of state law.

Eklutna Valley council members took issue with the fact Eaglexit has not consulted them, but Tavoliero said that’s only because the process is still in its early stages.

“Everybody’s entitled to their thoughts, but we have really yet to start to sit down with the community councils — which is our intent,” he said.

Tavoliero said Eaglexit is in talks with Northern Economics — which conducted a 2007 feasibility study showing detachment would cost local taxpayers money — to conduct a new two-part study using new projections and figures. He said that study is expected to cost in the neighborhood of $40,000 to $50,000. So far the group has raised about $12,000, he said.

Tavoliero invited Eklutna Valley council members — and anyone else with questions about the movement — to a public meeting scheduled for Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. at the Eagle River Lions Club.

“We need more skeptics,” he said.

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