Alexandria approves $531.6 million budget

By Christy Goodman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 6, 2010

Alexandria residents can expect to pay about $125 more in property taxes in fiscal 2011, along with higher fees for trash collection, parking meters and storm-water management projects, among other services.

The Alexandria City Council passed a tax rate of 97.8 cents per $100 of a home's assessed value, a 7.5-cent increase over last year's rate, in a 5 to 2 vote Monday night. Council members Alicia Hughes (I) and Frank H. Fannon IV (R) voted against the budget, opposing spending and tax increases.

Fannon said his vote was "not a vote against core services" but one against lack of compromise on higher taxes, higher city personnel costs and spending increases.

The city's $531.6 million budget is an increase of 0.3 percent over the fiscal 2010 budget, said council member Kerry J. Donley (D).

"Funding is virtually level, and yet we are going to be providing more service," he said. "That is a significant accomplishment."

The budget shows "what kind of city we want to be and who we are," said Mayor William D. Euille (D).

The budget includes the elimination of more than 65 city employee positions, many of which are vacant, and includes pay increases for the remaining employees, who haven't had a raise in several years.

The council restored funding for two community-oriented police officers and two ambulance crews, to help improve response times. The popular AT4 Alexandria Transit DASH bus route also was saved.

Hours at libraries, recreation centers and museums all have been cut, said council member Redella S. "Del" Pepper (D).

"Just about every program and every department has had some kind of cuts," she said. "It has been very painful for sure."

She blamed the record-breaking snowstorms in January for unexpected expenditures that hurt some residents' favorite services.

The council's fiscal 2011 budget includes a $1.6 million increase for a rise in the city's Metro subsidy, which is 26 percent higher than last year's amount.

Council member Rob Krupicka (D) said, "At the end of the day, if we didn't have a large check hanging over our heads because of WMATA [Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority] . . . this budget would be exactly the same as last year's."

The council voted to have its contracted services examined for efficiencies and directed the school system to save money for future pension payments, despite the Virginia General Assembly not requiring a portion of the payments this year.

The council also voted against an add-on tax for commercial businesses that would have been dedicated to transportation improvements, but the proposal will be brought up next year, council member Paul Smedberg (D) said.

The council approved dedicating 0.5 cents from the property tax increase to storm-water sewer infrastructure. The allocation will generate $2.3 million for projects, city officials said.

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