Alexandria City Manager Douglas Harman yesterday recommended a $147 million city operating budget for the coming fiscal year. The budget plan calls for raising the property tax rate by 2 cents, increasing restaurant and hotel taxes and charging residents for garbage collection.
Under the plan, the average homeowner's tax bill would rise about 2.5 percent, while the typical condominium owner's bill, because of lower assessments, would be about the same as this year's.
Alexandria households would pay $96 a year for trash removal, a service that is now free. The proposed 3 percent restaurant tax and 5 percent hotel tax, in contrast, are aimed at shifting the tax burden away from residents and onto tourists and other out-of-towners.
Harman said the budget, 7.6 percent higher than this fiscal year's budget, would provide "the basic same level of services" to residents. Much of budget increase would go toward costs that are beyond the city's control, such as pension plan payments, the expected start of Metrorail service next December and general inflation, according to budget officials.
Mayor Charles E. Beatley last night predicted that the proposed increases will pass. He said he saw no major cuts that could be made in the budget, and increases are needed to keep services at their present levels.
The new budget provides for a net increase of seven jobs on the payroll. City employes would get a 3 percent pay increase, which Harmon said is based on raises other jurisdictions are giving their workers.
Under Harman's plan, the city's 48 public schools would get the full $50 million requested by the school board. Harmon called the board's request, 3.7 percent higher than this year's spending level, "a very prudent and responsible budget."s
The proposed increase in the property tax rate, which would be the first in over a decade, signals an end to an era in which the city each year held the tax rate steady or lowered it, yet collected increased revenues as assessments surged ahead atop a property boom.
Alexandria's current property tax rate is $1.37 per $100 of assessed value, both for commercial and residential property. The budget proposes to raise it to $1.39.
Assessments for the coming fiscal year, mailed out last month, rose on the average by about 1 percent for single-family houses.
The owner of a house assessed at $100,000 would pay $1,390 a year under the budget proposal.
That is an increase of about 2.5 percent over this year's residential tax bill, compared to an average 7 percent jump from last year to this year.
Assessments for condominiums, after rising by 6.5 percent this year over last year, fell by 1.5 percent on the average for next year. With the proposed increase in the tax rate, the typical owner's bill would hold almost even.
Commercial property, a category that includes rented apartments, went up by about 1.5 percent in assessed value for next year. That would mean that on the average the owner of a piece of property assessed at $100,000 would get a bill for $1,390 next year, a 3 percent increase over this year's bill.
Garbage collection fees for private homes have been proposed in past budgets and rejected by the City Council, though most businesses are now required hire private refuse services. The collection fee would earn the city about $1.8 million a year.
Other major facets of the proposed budget include:
* A new group home for people with mental problems and a regional detoxification center.
* The Department of Recreation and Cultural Activities would expand flower bed, horticulture and small park programs.
* The city would spend an extra $40,000 to attract conferences.
* Payments to Metro would rise 16 percent to $6.6 million with the opening of the Yellow Line from National Airport to Huntington.
The proposed budget was presented to the council last night. In addition, Harman presented three alternative budgets: One for $136 million suggested areas where positions and programs could be cut; two others, totaling $148 million each, outlined various services that could be expanded.