Alexandria City Manager Vola T. Lawson gave her budget recommendations to the City Council last night, calling for maintaining the current property tax rate and raising the salaries of teachers and other city employes by 4 percent.
Lawson and members of the City Council, to whom she submitted recommendations and guidelines, said that holding the property tax rate stable is necessary to keep Alexandria as attractive to live in as other area jurisdictions.
It is not yet possible to determine what effect keeping the real estate tax rate at $1.39 per $100 of assessed value would have on home owners' tax bills because tax assessments figures will not be released until February. However, assessments on homes have risen steadily for years in the Washington area, and a slight cut in this year's Alexandria tax rate did not prevent increased tax bills.
The budget for the fiscal year starting next July 1 will now be drawn up and reviewed at a public hearing before the City Council votes on May 6 on a tax rate to fund a spending program for the fiscal year starting next July 1.
Lawson called for cutting the personal property tax, which applies mostly to cars and boats, from $4.90 per $100 of assessed value to $4.80.
Council members have said that high tax rates have in the past hampered the city's ability to attract new residents and businesses.
Vice Mayor Margaret B. Inman said last night she was "not happy with the budget assumptions right now. I think a 2 cent decrease in the real estate tax rate is something we can work for."
Projections call for a budget totaling $203.7 million, a $12.5 million increase over current spending.
Lawson's guidelines do not call for cutting programs or services, although she noted that Alexandria will lose some revenue when some federal aid is eliminated.
The 4 percent raises would raise the pay of an "average" teacher, who now makes about $30,000 a year, by $1,200, while the pay of an "average" municipal employe earning $22,000 would increase by $880, according to budget officials. Total compensation would rise 6.5 percent if the value of fringe benefits is figured in.
Last night's meeting ended early because of the expected arrival of heavy winds and rains associated with Hurricane Gloria, but not before the council welcomed "Woodsy the Owl," a person in an owl costume who attended as an emissary from the U.S. Forest Service, which is planning to promote Alexandria as a pollution-free city.
"Give a hoot, don't pollute!" commanded the person behind the owl costume as the council meeting broke up and the crowd exited to the rain-slick streets.