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City says first responders’ desired pay increase could mean substantial tax rate increase

(Updated 4:45 p.m.) At the start of a City Council retreat this weekend, acting Human Resources Director Jen Jenkins laid out some numbers behind the ongoing discussion over a pay increase for city employees.

City employees — first responders in particular — have criticized city leadership’s handling of employee pay and lamented that the city is, in some respects, lowest in regional pay. The city has laid out plans for a 1.5% pay increase, which unions representing first responders called an insulting lowball.

Jenkins said a 1% pay scale increase would cost an estimated $3 million.

1% pay increase cost, via City of Alexandria

The current real estate tax rate is $1.11 per $100. Jenkins said if the city were to increase taxes to pay for the pay increase, that would come out to a 0.7 cent tax increase. That would go up to 2 cents for a 3% increase, 3.3 cents for a 5% increase, and 6.7 cents tax rate increase for a 10% raise, which is what first responder unions have called for.

Jenkins said city staff are in the process of comparing pay figures for Alexandria with other localities around the region.

During the retreat, City Manager Mark Jinks and Mayor Justin Wilson also outlined some upcoming challenges for pay raise discussions. For one thing, Jinks said that there are sections of city employees that are not unionized, and the city will have to consider their compensation as well beyond groups being advocated for by unions. Wilson also said a rift is forming in funding dedicated to the Sheriff’s Offices and to Police Departments.

“I think we have a specific issue on the public safety side that’s going to be challenging as well and I think the result of last Tuesday will make it even more complex,” Wilson said, “which is this divergence between what’s going on with the sheriff’s departments and what’s going on with policing. We dealt with that a little of this with the process this year because of the way the state dealt with the sheriff’s departments and didn’t do anything for local police. My guess is given the political realities, that will probably be more acute going forward, that you’re going to see considerable state investment in the sheriff’s departments but not the same local support for local police departments.”

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