Alexandria City Manager Mark Jinks released his proposed, $799.9 million fiscal year 2021 budget at City Hall on Tuesday night, and it includes a 2 cent real estate tax increase.
Jinks, who also presented a $2.1 billion 10-year Capital Improvement Plan, proposes increasing the current tax rate by six cents over the course of six years — a 2 cent addition every other year — in order to pay for city and school system improvements.
“That will raise about $230 million over a 10 year period, and that will go largely to paying debt service for, generally, those projects that we’re borrowing for,” Jinks said. “We will use those increases in the tax rate to cover that cost against service, which will take that pressure off the general fund… (T)here’s a large consensus in the community that we need to do the school projects, we need to do the city projects.”
The budget is a 4.5% increase over the current FY 2020 budget of $761.5 million, which was approved last May. The 2 cent real estate tax hike of $1.13 to $1.15 per $100 of assessed value averages to a $116 tax increase for residents, city officials said.
Adding to the tax burden: a 4.15% jump in average property assessments.
The CIP also includes the eventual renovation of city hall, $7.5 million for bridge repairs and refurbishments, $17.6 million to support the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Capital Improvement Program and $30.5 million toward flood mitigation along the waterfront.
The preliminary budget includes a $241.4 million transfer to the Alexandria City Public School system. The $9.8 million, or 4.2% increase over last year’s budget, meets the full amount requested by ACPS Superintendent Dr. Gregory Hutchings, Jr.
Collaboration between the city and ACPS has progressed over the last several weeks, as Alexandria is experiencing an affordable housing crisis and needs land. Last month, school officials seemed aghast at the notion of co-locating affordable housing on the grounds of George Mason Elementary School after a feasibility study was mistakenly released to the public. Now, however, ACPS has pledged to include co-locating affordable or workforce housing options in all future development plans (with the exception of Douglas MacArthur Elementary School).
Under the plan, all city staff would receive a 1.5% pay increase, totaling at $3.5 million. The budget includes $800,000 for targeted pay increases. Employees are also eligible for merit-based pay increases ranging from 2.3% to 5%, and the plan would add $400,000 to reduce employees premium shares from 20% to 15% for those making below $70,000 a year.
The proposal includes 34 new full-time positions, including $85,000 for a full-time nurse practitioner to provide health support for the city’s firefighters and medics; $85,000 for a rehabilitative program coordinator with the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney; $50,000 for a part-time psychologist to help staff on the receiving end of 911 calls for service; $360,000 for six reserve firefighters and $135,000 for Sheriff’s Office staff.
Mayor Justin Wilson thanked staff and said the process was far from over.
“The budget development process begins the day after we adopt the last budget, and culminates tonight,” Wilson said. “This is the start of a process where we ask a lot of questions.”
The budget also includes:
- $562,000 for the city’s new Alex311 customer service initiative
- $415,000 for four new Transportation and Environmental Services employees to focus on land use and transportation plan reviews
- $138,000 to increase the city’s in-house information security staff
- $287,000 for full-time security officers at City Hall
- $760,000 in capital preservation funds for the Murray-Dick-Fawcett House
- An 11.9% increase in for residents who use the city’s trash and recycling services, from $411 to $460 per year
- A 4.5% increase in the stormwater fee for residents, from $140 to $146.30
Council will conduct nine budget work sessions leading up to the April 29 adoption. On Thursday, the city will conduct a public budget presentation at Charles E. Beatley Central Library (5005 Duke Street) from 7-8:30 p.m, and the budget public hearing will he held at 5:30 p.m. on March 9 at City Hall.