The Alexandria City Council voted 6 to 1 Tuesday night to advertise a property tax rate hike of 5.7 cents, more than twice what the city manager recommended, one day after scores of school advocates pressured the council to raise more money for school construction and maintenance.
The proposal, which would raise property taxes to $1.13 per $100 of assessed property value, could cost the average homeowner $356 more than what they now pay. The council also is considering higher fees for sewers and trash, and a new storm-water utility fee, all of which would add about $200 more to a homeowner’s bill in fiscal 2018.
Vice Mayor Justin Wilson (D) said that although the council might not enact the higher property tax rate he proposed, it’s time to consider how to raise more revenue. He coupled the tax rate proposal with a new joint city-schools committee that would create a city-and-schools facilities plan that could result in shared buildings.
“I can’t understand the suggestion that we are not going to introduce additional debt capacity, we’re not going to reduce massively our capital budget, we’re not going to introduce new revenue to the picture, and somehow we’re going make this happen. It’s fantasy, it’s absolute fantasy,” he said.
Even if the council were to adopt the 5.7 cent tax rate hike, it would not raise enough money to pay for all school and city needs, Wilson noted.
The city is facing significantly higher spending for Metro, a costly reconstruction of its combined sewer system in Old Town and a $661 million request from the school system — nearly triple its current plan — to rebuild or modernize one-third of all Alexandria schools in the next 10 years.
Under Virginia law, the City Council provides schools with local tax revenue. The School Board and superintendent decide how to spend it.
Mayor Allison Silberberg (D) was the lone no vote on advertising the higher tax rate, which essentially sets a ceiling for how much the council can raise taxes when approving the annual budget.
She said that she favored the city manager’s proposed property tax hike of 2.7 cents, especially because residents will have to deal with new fees.
“To have that 5.7 cent increase on top of the new fees is a great deal to ask of our taxpayers,” Silberberg said. “I don’t think this is the time.”