Alexandria budget proposal holds line on tax rate, but taxes will rise with assessments

Correction: A previous version of this article contained three errors. The manager proposed cutting the city’s contribution to the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center by $100,000, not $1.4 million. He also advised eliminating a $121,000, donation to the local law library, not $163,000. The manager also advised increasing the professional development budget by $40,000, not to a total of $40,000.

Property tax bills are likely to rise in Alexandria in the coming fiscal year, even though the property tax rate will stay the same, because the value of homes is going up, City Manager Rashad Young said Tuesday.

Young proposed a $635 million budget for 2015, up 1.6 percent from the current year. That budget includes a net loss of 33 full-time jobs from the city’s 2,515-person workforce.

The tax rate would remain $1.038 per $1,000 of assessed value under the manager’s proposal. The average home in Alexandria, valued at $490,422, would have a $190 increase in its $5,091 tax bill.

The difference between the budget requests and the money to pay for them was $35 million this year, Young said.

“We have very little new revenue, but the demands are greater than they were last year,” he said. “The challenge always is how do you fit all these pieces together for the variety of things we do. . . . It’s like trying to put together this really big jigsaw puzzle . . . it’s how you mix and match and set priorities.”

Revenue for the city will increase by about $10 million in the coming fiscal year, which starts July 1. Half of that will go to the Alexandria City Public Schools, with a recommended budget of $190.6 million, $2.5 million less than the school system requested.

Young’s proposal would move $870,000 from the city’s program to help residents buy homes into an affordable-housing fund for renters. He also advised cutting support to the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Home by $100,000 and eliminating a $121,000 contribution to the local law library. Seventeen jobs would be cut from the Parks and Recreation Department, which is reorganizing its staffing. Young said staffers who lose their positions would be eligible, if qualified, to apply for new positions in other departments.

A renegotiated contract with the local animal welfare league is expected to save $98,000, and eliminating a senior taxicab service will save $160,000, he said.

Most of the city’s budget is devoted to salaries and benefits, which will creep up 0.5 percent. Young set aside $4.6 million for merit pay and $700,000 for career ladder increases, and added $40,000 to the budget for professional development and training. City retirees will have to pay their own life insurance premiums under the proposal.

The City Council, which has the final say on local taxes, begins a season of budget workshops, with public hearings set for March 10, March 17 and April 12. The vote on the budget is scheduled for May 1.

Patricia Sullivan seeks out news about Alexandria and Arlington County for the Washington Post.
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