According to the state Department of Community and Economic Development, Alaska has two types of municipalities -- cities and organized boroughs -- which come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Alaska cities are municipal corporations and political subdivisions generally encompassing a single community with boundaries that do not include large undeveloped geographical regions or large unpopulated areas.
Cities are classified in one of three ways, depending on the level of government desired. There are currently 145 cities in the state -- 12 home-rule, 21 first-class and 112 second-class. Forty-nine are in organized boroughs, and the remaining 96 are in Alaska's one unorganized borough.
Home-rule cities have individual charters, or constitutions, establishing their structure, powers and duties. If created within an organized borough, a home-rule city's powers do not include public education. Planning, platting and land use regulation may be permitted by the borough.
Regarding property tax, a city may tax up to 30 mills, except where a higher levy is necessary to avoid default on debt. Some charters require voter approval to authorize property taxes. A charter may limit the rate of levy on sales tax and the charter may require voter approval.
The charter or an ordinance determines the composition of the city council, the election and term of a mayor and the vote by mayor. Veto powers of the mayor are generally determined by charter or ordinance, except that a veto is not permitted of an ordinance prohibiting possession of alcohol.
First-class cities gain their powers from state statute and have no charters. To incorporate as a first-class city, a community must have at least 400 permanent residents. Like home-rule cities, first-class city powers do not include public education if they are within an organized borough. If the city is in an organized borough, planning, platting and land-use regulation powers may be permitted by the organized borough but must be exercised in accordance with statute.
Property tax up to 30 mills may be levied except where a higher levy is necessary to avoid default on debt. Voter approval is not required by statute; however, some general law municipal governments have more restrictive limitations imposed at the local level. There is generally no limit on the rate of levy of sales tax; however, voter approval is required.
City councils are composed of six members elected at large, except the council may provide for election other than at-large. Mayors are elected for a three-year term, unless a different term not to exceed four years is provided by ordinance, and may vote to break a tie vote on the city council. The mayor generally has veto power with the same exception provided for home-rule cities.
Second-class cities also gain their powers from state law and have no charters. To incorporate as a second-class city, a community must have at least 25 permanent registered voters willing to petition for incorporation.
Like the other two designations, second-class cities are not allowed to provide public education. They are not required to exercise planning, platting and land-use powers in any circumstance but may be permitted to do so by the borough if located within an organized borough.
Property tax up to 20 mills, except where a higher levy is required to avoid default is permitted, and voter approval is required. There is no limit on the rate of sales tax levy, for which voter approval is required. The city council is composed of seven members elected at-large, unless the council provides for election other than at-large.
Mayors are elected from the city council for a one-year term, unless a longer term is provided by ordinance. The mayor is selected by the council, or by voters, upon adoption of an ordinance. The mayor votes on all matters and has no veto power.
There are 16 organized boroughs in Alaska. Three are unified municipalities, five are home-rule boroughs, seven are second-class boroughs and one is a third-class borough.
There are no first-class boroughs.
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