The executive director of Alexandria's financially troubled housing authority, said yesterday that he has recommended an across-the-board staff reduction to help trim $370,000 from this year's operating budget.
Director Angus T. Olsen and the seven-member board of commissioners of the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority met to review the latest budget proposals, which included a plan to eliminate 16 of the authority's 66 positions.
The plan calls for terminating five part-time maintenance workers and a painter and not replacing a crew leader who is scheduled to retire this year. Four community relations workers, two housing management staffers and a finance staff member also would be terminated. Two vacant administrative positions would be eliminated.
Olsen said a hiring freeze also would be put in effect for the year.
Hardest hit in the budget tightening would be the authority's recreational programs.
The frequent teen dances, field trips, crafts and Bible studies sponsored by the authority would be dramatically curtailed, Olsen said, so "more essential" authority functions could continue.
"We've gotten mixed reactions," Olsen said of the plan scheduled to be the subject of a public hearing Feb. 7.
"RIFs and layoffs are always unpleasent things . . . but these tight financial times leave us little alternative."
Eroding federal support for the nation's public housing and high utility costs have placed Alexandria's housing authority, like many others across the country, near bankruptcy.
The authority is running a monthly $100,000 deficit.
Because of its budgetary woes the authority has come under attack by citizens groups urging it to sell some of its properties to raise operating capital.
Recently, the Alexandria City Council approved a $5.7 million bond issue to buy 6.4 acreas of the John Roberts Homes land near the Braddock Road Metro Station from the authority if it is unable to work out a deal to develop the land with the Carley Capital Group.
Robert J. Test, a housing authority commissioner, said the success of the Roberts property development may have an impact on how much of Olsen's budget recommendations are adopted by the commissioners. "We need to act promptly," Test said. "But we will be looking at what Carley and the city do." He said if added revenues are found, the cuts could be less severe.
Meanwhile, Test said the commissioners are going to take a hard look at Olsen's budget and try to balance the needs of the authority's 1,150 residents with the economic realities of the day.
"It's a measure that no one likes to take, particularly with the rise in unemployment," Commissioner Judith A. Hansen said of the proposed cuts. "But the financial reality is that the housing authority has to find some ways to save money, and this may be the only one to preserve the authority for the years to come."