Fairfax City Manager Edward A. Wyatt proposed yesterday what he called an "upbeat budget" of $35.9 million that, because of the city's booming business economy, would combine a 9.1 percent spending increase with a small reduction in the property tax rate.
"It is with some pleasure," he said, "that I recommend a tax reduction" of three cents, from $1.18 to $1.15 per $100 of assessed value. The City Council last year approved a seven cent reduction to the $1.18 rate.
The tax reduction will be offset somewhat by a 6.4 percent increase in the city's assessment total, officials said, but the bulk of that increase involves nonresidential property.
"We had a large number of homes whose assessments did not increase or actually decreased," said city Comptroller Edward J. Cawley Jr. As a result, he said, "a large number, perhaps the majority" of homeowners will have slightly smaller tax bills next year, but firm figures were not available.
Wyatt proposed substantial base salary increases for several groups of city employes, including police officers and secretaries, "in order to retain good people and attract good people," he said.
He is also seeking 14 new fulltime employes for the city's 278-member staff, including adding six firefighters to the current 41 and four police officers to the current 52.
The manager acknowledged that the increases in police and fire personnel may be controversial, given the city's falling crime rate and stable population (20,400).
"It's not a fait accompli," Wyatt said. "There's going to be a lot of discussion of that." He said the expansion of public safety personnel is necessary to protect the city's increasing amount of commercial property.
As part of the budget, Wyatt also outlined a reorganization of the city government, combining some departments and reducing their number from 11 to eight.
The budget predicts $3 million in increased general revenue, much of which officials said will come from an anticipated 10 percent increase in sales tax revenue and a 3.2 percent increase in the quantity of commercial property in the 6.25-square mile city.
"Things are very well for us," Wyatt said.
The proposed budget includes a 4 percent cost-of-living raise for city employes, with some classes of workers getting 5 to 15 percent in addition to keep city salaries competitive.
Police privates and sergeants -- 44 of the 52-member force -- would get the additional 5 percent, as would secretaries, with some secretaries getting as much as 15 percent more.
The City Council has scheduled public hearings on the budget for March 12 and 26, and adoption is set for April 9.
Wyatt was fairly jubilant describing the budget for reporters at an afternoon press conference. Referring to the document's red-white-and-blue cover, which features the city's slogan, "Catch Our Spirit, Feel Our Pride," Wyatt said: "Isn't this nice and upbeat? It's not a picture of some old building in the city or something. Why, it almost looks like a Pepsi advertisement."