Alexandria passes 2015 budget; plans to raise property tax rate by one-half cent

The Alexandria City Council voted Thursday night to raise property taxes and increase other fees as part of its fiscal 2015 budget, which preserves most of the tax relief currently offered to senior citizens and gives additional operating funds to public schools.

The half-cent hike in the tax rate, from $1.038 to $1.043 per $100 of assessed value, comes on top of increased property values throughout the city, which would have pushed up the average tax bill that homeowners pay by $190, even without the tax rate increase. The tax bill for the average home, worth $490,422, will jump by $215.

Commercial electricity tax rates will rise 10 percent, commercial water taxes will go up 5 percent, and cigarette taxes will rise to $1.15 per pack, from $1. Night and weekend parking garage fees will go up, and residential refuse collection fees will rise by $9. The council restored a threatened cut in retiree life insurance premiums and $75,000 worth of cuts in human services funds, but took $175,000 out of the information technology budget.

The $636.8 million budget, up 1.9 percent, adds $1.2 million to the $190.6 million allocated for public school operations. Money for school construction comes out of the capital budget, which passed Thursday as well; the schools are due to get $17.7 million out of the city’s $92.5 million capital budget.

Thirty-three jobs were cut from a 2,400-job workforce, and Mayor William D. Euille and several council members said they expect more years of tight revenue, driven by rising costs in a city that continues to grow.

“The only way to get out of this tailspin is to see a strong [national] economic recovery,” Euille said.

One of the more hard-fought budget decisions revolved around tax breaks for seniors and the fully disabled. The city budgeted $3.3 million for the program this year, but the city manager planned to cut $2 million in the coming fiscal year. The council committed $3.15 million to the program.

Homeowners older than 65 must have net assets of no more than $430,000, not including the value of their home. Previously, the net worth of someone claiming the deduction could be $540,000.

The council agreed to boost the money for rent relief for seniors to $422,000, from $272,000, enough to help 40 of the 59 people who were on a waiting list at the end of 2013.

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