Alexandria City Manager Douglas Harman called yesterday for adoption of a $122.7 million budget requiring layoffs of some city workers, consolidating and eliminating some popular social programs and costing the average homeowner at least $150 more in property taxes.
Blaming inflation and reduced federal funding, Harman said that it was imperative for the city to begin to cut back its employment and "optional services." Among those areas he earmarked for reduction or consolidation are the city's consumer affairs office, its women's commission and its landlord-tenant relations board.
"We're not saying it's not nice to have these programs, but it has reached the point where we have to determine what are the essential services . . . value judgements in these areas will have to be made by the City Council if the city is to remain fiscally responsible," Harman said in defense of his budget for the coming fiscal year beginning July 1. Despite the recommended cuts, Harman's plan would increase city spending 11.5 percent over current levels. Under Harman's proposals, the main function of those agencies that he termed optional would no longer be one of counseling, but of legislative advocacy and education. For example, the city consumer affairs office, which processes most consumer complaints, would be administered under the citizens assistance officer and reduced to a staff of one.
Currently, the office is staffed by four city employes and several federally funded workers. Harman conceded that under its new management, it would be almost impossible for the agency to continue any investigations.
In addition to the agency consolidations, Harman said 21 city employes would be laid off and an additional 36 employes, financed by the federal Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) funds slated for elimination under President Reagan's proposed budget cuts, would lose their jobs.
Harman said the layoffs, if approved by the City Council, would represent the first major staff reductions in the city's payroll in more than a decade. Other city employes, now totalling 1,741, would be granted a 9.17 percent wage increase under the budge proposal.
Translated into taxpayers' bills, city officials said, Harman's recommended budge will cost the typical Alexandria homeowner about $150 more in porperty taxes next year.
Although the city's property tax rates would remain the same -- $1.39 per $100 of assessed value -- under Harman's proposal average increases of about 12 percent in residential assessments will boost the taxes that most homeowners pay. The average home in the city is now assessed at about $100,000, city officials said.
Although Harman conceded that the city races major losses in federal funding if Reagan's proposed budget cuts are approved -- federal funds comprised 12 percent of the city budget -- the city manager said he had not added any extra money to his proposal to compensate for that.
"Like every other local jurisdiction, we will have to wait and see what actually happens," Harman said, adding that if funds are cut the city will probably absorb the loss by further redu cing programs and not calling for a property-tax increase.
Harman's recommended budget is one of four proposals presented by his office to the council, which is expected to adopt the final version by May 5. The other three proposals call for spending $121 million, $124 million or $127 million, and depend on varying property-tax rates.
Missing from his budget message was the usual reduction in the school board's requested budget. Unlike last year when $1.5 million was cut from the school's budget request, next year's budget goes to the council virtually untouched. School board members have requested $44.4 million, and Harman reduced that amount by only $100,000.
"The school system has undertaken a rigorous budget preparation and review process for fiscal year 1982," Harman said, commending the school board's work.
Although City Council members yesterday accepted the proposals with little comment, representatives from agencies cut by Harman's ax were blunt about what side to grind.
"I can't believe it," said Carole Becker, director of the women's commission and overseer of the city's rape victim program and battered women's shelter program. Under Harman's proposals, the two programs would be placed under the city's mental health agency and a staff of more than 10 reduced to three people.
"It's a constant battle. Look at what's happening at the federal level with programs," Becker said. "Every single one is under fire. There is no way I can possibly run my programs with only three people."
City officials offered little solace for Becker's laments. When asked how the reduced programs would survive, assistant city manager Jim Randall said: "That's a hell of a good question. But when these programs first began, they were well aware that the city was making no commitment to continue them" indefinitely without federal aid.
"I'm not sure how they'll survive."