Alexandria taxpayers, who shouldered a hefty property tax and fee hike this year, should get a reprieve in fiscal 2019 with no new tax rate increases or major service reductions, City Manager Mark Jinks said Tuesday in his advice to the City Council.
Jinks said his $742 million operating budget proposal includes all the money requested by Lois Berlin, the city’s interim schools superintendent. Between that budget and the 10-year capital improvement budget, the city will pay for a citywide traffic safety initiative, improvements to the King Street retail corridor, a fast citywide fiber network and the first significant money to be spent on flood mitigation along the city’s Old Town waterfront.
“Last year, the city faced flat revenues and unexpected new costs,” Jinks said. “Because we made responsible choices, we are in a position to maintain our progress this year without significant adverse changes.”
Last year, the council raised taxes by 5.7 cents to $1.13 per $100 of assessed value and added new fees, costing the owner of an average home $356 more than they previously paid.
Residential property assessments grew only 3.3 percent this year, which means even without a tax rate increase, homeowners may find themselves with a higher tax bill — $197 higher on average, city budget documents said. Owners of multifamily rental housing will face 7.68 percent higher taxes because of increased values, but other commercial taxpayers will see an increase of less than 1 percent.
Most of the new money raised that way will go to schools and transit, including $2.7 million for Metrorail and Metrobus, Jinks said. But there are smaller initiatives which will also benefit from the new revenue, as well as budget trimming, particularly an effort to reduce pedestrian deaths and injuries and the first phase of street improvements on the city’s most important retail corridor, which includes the new park at the foot of King Street.
Under Jinks’s plan, the city will spend the second half of a $10 million bill to complete a 40-gigabit-per-second fiber network, which will tie city and school offices together with a fast Internet connection, and will offer the potential for future private broadband access.
The city may spend $5.8 million for design, engineering and permitting for flood mitigation along the riverfront, part of a $50 million, four-year project that is intended to remake the Old Town waterfront into an attraction for residents and tourists.
Jinks will present his budget to the public Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Beatley Central Library, 5005 Duke St. A public hearing is scheduled for March 12 at 4 p.m. in City Hall, and a tax rate public hearing will be held April 14 at 8:30 p.m. in City Hall. The City Council, after working through the budget and making changes, has scheduled its final adoption May 3 at 7 p.m. in City Hall.