The leadership of the Anchorage Economic Development Corp. is advocating for the creation of a new 3% city sales tax, with two-thirds dedicated to property tax relief and one-third for public projects.
“Specifically for revenue diversification, property tax relief that increases housing affordability and community investment projects that increase our quality of life in Anchorage,” said Ryan Strong, head of AEDC’s board, during the nonprofit’s annual forecast luncheon Wednesday.
Strong, who is also an executive with First National Bank Alaska, spoke while about 1,500 attendees ate lunch. He said a sales tax could spur big changes in Anchorage and that the concept is modeled after Oklahoma City’s MAPS initiative, a 1% sales tax created in 1993 specifically for public projects. Strong said voters there renew it every time it’s on the ballot.
“That funded projects like a 70-acre park downtown, an NBA basketball arena, a sidewalk program to connect neighborhoods and amenities across the city, multiple senior health and wellness centers and more,” he said. “Beyond simply making the city a more enjoyable place to live, MAPS kickstarted 30 years of population increases and economic growth that continues to this day.”
In an interview, AEDC Executive Director Jenna Wright fleshed out the sales tax concept, which she said business leaders and partner organizations coalesced around in meetings this past summer.
“A 3% sales tax with two-thirds of it going to property tax relief would result in about a 20% reduction in property taxes for both residential and commercial property owners,” Wright said. “And then we would mirror that 1% that Oklahoma City found so successful for the community investment projects.”
Wright said AEDC is just beginning to shop the idea around more widely. There’s a lot more work to be done, she said.
“We’re going to talk about it with more groups and see, you know, if there is an appetite for it in Anchorage and if it’s what Anchorage residents want, but we truly believe that we should be investing in ourselves here in Anchorage,” Wright said.
The sales tax push came out of work on AEDC’s Choose Anchorage campaign, which was unveiled last year. The campaign is aimed at revitalizing Anchorage’s economy, with a particular focus on attracting and retaining a workforce amid what some experts call a national “talent crisis.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the name of the AEDC board chair’s bank and has been corrected.