Encouraged by the recent discovery of a $2 million "surplus" in city tax revenues, representatices of a variety of social service agencies and programs packed the Alexandria City Council chambers on the evening of April 19 for the last public hearing on the city's $79.8 million operating budget for the 1977-78 fiscal year.
Testimony on several programs scheduled for cutbacks was heard. Among those were the Youth Services Program, a community outreach program for juvenile delinquents. A city public school counselor and a Red Cross worker lauded the program and criticized City Manager Douglas Harman's recent statement that the program could be replaced by other city agencies.
Opposition was also voiced to the elimination of a $5,000 a year appropriation for a job developer position in the city's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program.
Joe Corcoran, chairman of the Alexandria Alcohol and Drug Abuse Control Coordinating Committee, a 15 member committee that advises the Council, called the program's job developer position "vital" to the city's efforts in treating drug abusers and alcoholics.
"During the 1975-76 year, Alexandria experienced twice as many drug emergency room cases as any other jurisdiction in Norther Virginia," Coreoran testified.
"A conservation estimate of the number of alcoholics in Alexandria exceeds 7,000 one-third of whom are women."
Harman had said that the employment aid could be provided by other employment agencies in the city.
Corcoran, however, disagreed, stating that the employment process for drug abusers and alcoholics it complex and problem-ridden and would not be adequately served by other employment agencies.
The most dramatic moments in the four-hour hearing came during the testimony of spokesmen for 15 low-income Alexandria residents and their children, many of who lined the back of the hearing room, holding bright yellow and green balloons which bobbed up and down above their heads.
The families, all clients of the Cameron Valley Child Development Center, a privately run day care facility on Braddock Road, came to urge the Council to consider increased appropriations for the center.
"We hope we pray, you will increase the operating budget of the Cameron Valley Child Development Center," said Magnolia Lyons, a blind, single parent whose son Andre, 4, attends the Center.
"Many of us will have no alternative but to place our children in homes where they will not be adequately cared for."
The center, sponsored by the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington, provides inexpensive day care on a sliding scale basis for more than 60 low-income Alexandria residents. It now receives $17,545 of its $111,000 operating budget from the city.
However, according to the center's director, Michele Porzel, this figure has remained static for three years while the number of families using the center has nearly doubled.
"If the city does not increased their contribution considerably to around $30,000 we will have no choice but to raise out fees. This would force many working mothers back on welfare or would in some cases make them resort to unsuitable alternatives," Porzel testified.
After the hearing, vice mayor and Council member Nora Lamborne described the situation at Cameron Valley as "pathetic" and said [WORD ILLEGIBLE] levels for employees there are unbelievably low."
Lamborne said she hoped that [WORD ILLEGIBLE] the majority of additional tax revenue money is returned to the citizens through a decrease in the real estate tax of five cents per $100 of assessed value (this would bring the current rate down from $1.75 to $1.70 per [WORD ILLEGIBLE] of assessed value), that the remainder could be earmarked for Camerson Valley and other social service programs. She estimated the remainder at $600,000 to $700,000.