The position of Alexandria City Manager Vola Lawson on salary levels for city employes was unclear in a report in Wednesday's Metro section. She has expressed concern that teachers have gotten higher rates of pay raises than other city employes have in the past two years. (Published 6/14/87)

The Alexandria City Council set guidelines last night for its 1988-89 budget that some School Board members and city employe groups said are inadequate to keep up with inflation and regional competition for teachers.

The guidelines are the first step in the long process for determining the size and content of the budget that will go into effect on July 1, 1988.

Based on estimated tax revenues and on the assumption that the council will not increase the property tax rate, the part of the budget made up of city revenues -- exclusive of state and federal funds -- is forecast at $184.9 million, a 5.9 percent increase over the 1987-88 budget adopted last month.

The guidelines would make it impossible, School Board members said yesterday, to continue a three-year plan envisioned by School Superintendent Robert W. Peebles to make teachers' salaries more competitive with those of surrounding school systems.

Under Peebles' plan, teachers would get 9.8 percent raises in the 1987-88 budget and would receive 8 percent raises in the following two years.

School Board Chairman Timothy S. Elliott said that under the city's guidelines, the school system could afford no more than 5 percent teacher raises in 1988-89.

City Manager Vola Lawson has said she believes that other city employes should get the largest raises before teachers once again are given the greatest raises.

City employes got 5 percent raises in the 1987-88 budget.

In a letter to the council, representatives of five employe groups said the 1988-89 budget guidelines are "an attack on city employes" because, in part, city salary increases "in the last 10 years have run behind inflation levels."

The testy tone of the debate between the council and School Board was set last week when board members were asked to tell the council what they thought of the guidelines that were formally adopted last night.

Elliott and other board members were critical of the council for what he said was a unilateral decision on the budget. "We ought to discuss the guidelines rather than have them shoved down our throat," Elliott said last night.

Board members said their staff was able to contribute little in the formation of the guidelines and criticized the council for advancing discussion of the guidelines two months earlier than last year, a move some board members said was a way to circumvent public discussion and dissent in an election year.

"They are . . . trying to evade some political and public pressures that are part of the process," said School Board member Judith Seltz. "This year they don't want to hear a lot from the school lobby . . . . To me that's one of the factors they have to take into consideration."

The adoption of the 1988-89 budget coincides with the May 1988 council elections. Three School Board members will be up for reappointment by the council at the same time.

Vice Mayor Patricia Ticer said board members needed to "take note of the restriction we have . . . . They're going to have to live within the confines of their budget."

This year the council adopted a $174.6 million general fund (city revenue) budget, which represented a 5.5 percent increase. The total 1987-88 operating budget, including state and federal funds, is $217 million.

The council cut the real estate tax rate by 3 cents, to $1.34 per $100 of assessed value for the 1987-88 year, a reduction that is expected to be offset by rising property assessments.