Service area voters' bill passes both Legislature

Posted: Friday, April 20, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- The Legislature has approved a bill that would let residents of road and fire service areas vote before their service area boundaries could be changed.

The measure, which had already passed the House, passed the Senate 13-6 Thursday.

Service areas are sections within a borough in which residents pay taxes for a particular service, such as road plowing, firefighting or parks and recreation. Although they may have advisory boards, their budgets and their tax rates must be approved by the larger borough assembly. Under current law, the borough assembly can change their boundaries.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Con Bunde, R-Anchorage, would change that. Under his bill before boundaries could change, a majority of residents in each area affected would have to vote in favor of it.

Also, if service areas with different tax rates are combined, the bill would let residents in the new service area continue to pay different tax rates based on the area they were in before.

The bill passed the Senate with no debate, but in the past opponents have argued the measure takes power away from local governments, could lead to inefficiencies and may be unconstitutional.

Supporters have countered that service areas are sometimes more efficient than centralized service, and that residents should not be forced into another area against their will.

Sen. Georgianna Lincoln, D-Rampart, gave notice that she may bring the bill up for reconsideration on Friday.

If the outcome doesn't change, the bill will go to Gov. Tony Knowles.

Knowles vetoed a similar bill last year. This year's bill is somewhat different, and Knowles said earlier this week he didn't know if he would veto it.

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