Special Assessments

Revised July 1, 2013

Introduction

Special assessments are used to finance capital improvements that benefit specific property within a certain area. The benefit area or special assessment areas are organized through the creation of a "Special Assessment District," or a "Local Improvement District" (LID), of which there are hundreds in existence today in Alaska. Some examples of property benefits might include roads, streetlights, sewer or water, or gas lines. The idea behind this special arrangement is that it is easier for property owners to afford the benefits if they share the cost as a group rather than paying individually.

Narrative

Special assessments can begin with an action proposed by a governing body or by the public through a petition to the governing body (AS 29.46.010). Under state law (AS 29.46.020) municipalities may design their own laws for the creation of special assessment districts and levying the assessments. These special assessments can be paid for by the property owner in one lump sum, or the local municipality can bill the property owner over a set period of time (AS 29.46.080.)

Special assessments are a way for property owners and the municipality to work together to finance capital improvements that directly benefit the property owners. Special assessments spread the cost of the improvement among all the properties that benefit from the improvement. Special assessments are best used when it would not be fair to spread the cost among all taxpayers because the benefit of the improvement affects a limited area.

In spite of the benefit to be gained, some people occasionally believe that forcing someone to participate is not fair. Special assessments can still be imposed on property owners that object after an opportunity has been provided for objections to be reviewed by the governing body. In order for most LIDs to work there needs to be participation from all properties that benefit from the improvement so all can share the cost equally.

Frequently Asked Questions