Alexandria taxpayers would not see a higher tax rate or major service reductions, and city schools would be fully funded, under a fiscal 2020 budget plan unveiled Tuesday.
The proposal by City Manager Mark B. Jinks contains just one fee increase — an additional $33 per year for refuse and recycling services.
It also includes spending to address the potential effects of Amazon’s planned headquarters in adjacent Arlington.
Jinks said he put an additional $1 million into the city’s $5 million affordable housing fund because the arrival of 25,000 Amazon employees over the next 15 years is expected to stress housing availability. (Amazon CEO Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
He also added money to the city’s economic development office in hopes of luring ancillary businesses to the city.
The capital improvement fund has enough money to keep construction of the Potomac Yard Metro station on schedule, Jinks said, and the city is working on how to leverage a $50 million state air pollution reduction grant to expand access to that station from the southwest.
Just four months ago, Jinks expected a revenue shortfall of $27.5 million, so he asked city department heads to trim their budgets.
They cut almost $5 million in spending and found $1.3 million more by becoming more streamlined and efficient in billing and cost recovery, which allowed Jinks to propose a handful of initiatives, despite nearly flat revenue growth of 1.7 percent.
The city manager’s proposal for the $761.1 million budget is the first in a multitude of steps that culminate with the adoption of the budget by the City Council on May 1. The property tax rate would stay at $1.13 per $100 of assessed value , which, due to rising home values, would increase the average residential property tax bill by $118.
Public schools would get $232.2 million, an increase of $8.5 million over the current year, which is what Schools Superintendent Gregory Hutchings Jr. sought, although the city school board has yet to weigh in.
The remaining third of the city’s revenue growth would go toward Metro.
Jinks also noted that Virginia now allows a separate real estate tax rate for school construction and debt service. Although no such tax is planned in Alexandria this year, he wants to launch a study about whether to use that tax authority in coming years.
For fiscal 2020, he proposed arming police with digital tools to write citations for moving violations, which he said would reduce errors and speed up collection of fines.
The budget also provides money to expand online payments for taxes, fees and permits, purchase alternative energy credits for the city’s entire energy use, begin to replace all streetlight bulbs with low-power, long-life LEDs, and allow Alexandria to buy only electric or hybrid vehicles for the city fleet, including clean diesel local buses.
Some $5.5 million would be set aside to repave or rebuild 55 miles of streets, and the city would start construction on its high-speed fiber broadband network. All city parking meters and pay stations could be remotely configured under this system, Jinks said, opening the possibility that the city could charge more during special events or high-demand periods. Such a change would require approval by the City Council, he said.