Alexandria City Manager Douglas Harman presented the City Council yesterday with the austere, election year budget that it had requested -- a document that calls for massive cuts in selected city services and is certain to provoke outcries from special interest groups.
But Harman also offered the council three other spending plans, each calling for progressively higher levels of spending.
Each of Harman's proposals calls for a reduction in the city's real estate tax rate, although virtually all property owners seem likely to face higher tax bills next year because assessments here have jumped by an average of 11 percent over year-ago levels.
Assuming the council acopts the recommended tax rate Harman suggested -- $1.47 per $100 of assessed value -- the tax on a home currently valued at $50,000 will increase by $46. Real estate taxes on an $88,500 home will rise by $73, and the tax on a $133,200 house will rise by $110, according to an analysis submitted with the budget proposals. Property taxes account for slightly more than half of all city revenues.
Harman's proposed budgets range in size from 3.45 percent to 8.9 percent more than this year's budget of $88.3 million. Harman himself urged a budget of $93.8 million, or 6.26 percent more than the current budget.
His recommended budget carries the property tax rate reduction of 7 cents, from $1.54 to $1.47 for each $100 of assesed value.
The various levels of spending required by each budget would be achieved by adjusting the property tax rate, among other things, Harman said. Every 1 cent of the property tax rate accounts for $445,000 in revenue to the city. Other sources of revenue would be gained by making cuts in one department and using the money elsewhere in the budget, and by adjusting estimates of various taxes.
City Council member Robert L. Calhoun, a Republican seeking reelection in the May 1 general election, praised the four proposed budgets as being "concise and detaild.
"We've got our work cout out for us," said Calhoun, who last year drafted a spending ceiling on which the four proposed budgets were based.
"The budget showing a 3.5 percent [increase] in spending is a barebones budget, and the budget with a 6.26 percent in spending is an austere budget," Harman said yesterday.
In order to guide the council, Harman submitted a list of 30 current services or funding contribution programs that would have to be eliminated or crippled if the council chose to increase the budget by only 3.34 percent.
Among the programs that might be cut most sharply are the city tourist council, the landlord-tenant relations office, the consumer affairs office, the women's commission, the air pollution control program, the noise pollution control office, and various mental health, mental retardation, and drug control programs.
It is these cuts that are likely to cause the greatest public attention.
This same "bare-bones" budget of $91.4 million would also automatically eliminate $1.268 million from the school system's requested budget of $33.3 million. It would eliminate $8,000 in senior citizen rent relief, five uniformed positions from the police department, one fire truck company on Seminary Road, although there would be no reduction in fire department staffing. The budget would provide a 4 percent increase in salary and benefits to city employes.
Harman's preferred budget of $93.8 million avoids the elimination of the $565,018 in programs required by the "bare-bones" budget, although, it, too, eliminates $8,000 in rent relief for the elderly. Harman's budget calls for reduced hours of service at Fort Ward Park, the city library, Gadsby's Tavern Museum, and the city's minipools. Harman's recommended budget maintains police and fire department staffing at their current levels, although it gives the school system $800,000 less then requested.
The third budget proposal, which totals $95.1 million, a 7.66 percent increase over current spending, includes $50,000 for the start of a computer service that the council has discussed several times during the past year. Mayor Frank E. Mann has often urged that such a system be installed as a way of cutting down on welfare cheating.
The final budget proposal totals $96.2 million, with an 8.9 percent increase over current spending. Harman said yesterday he had submitted this particular budget to account for various projects favorably discussed by the council. Among these are 20 aditional positions added to the sheriff's department, additional park crews, increased use of computers, and the possibility of increasing the number of police.
By law the city budget must be balanced. Deficit financing is not permitted. The council has scheduled public hearings and work sessions on April 11, 21, 27, and May 4.