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Police and Firefighters getting big raises in Alexandria City Manager’s $881 million budget proposal

Alexandria City Hall lit up (staff photo by James Cullum)

Alexandria City Manager Jim Parajon released his proposed $881.1 million fiscal year 2024 budget at City Hall on Tuesday night, and it includes an option to raise taxes by 1 cent.

The budget also reflects $8.1 million in collective bargaining agreement funds that will go to the Fire and Police Departments.

Parajon, who presented his budget to City Council, said that unexpectedly high real estate assessments and $4.6 million in efficiency reductions wiped away a projected $17 million budget shortfall.

The budget is a 5% increase over last year’s budget, and Parajon is proposing no change in the real estate tax rate, which would remain at $1.11 per $100 of assessed value for the second year in a row. The same goes for other tax rates, including personal property taxes, which would remain at $5.33 per $100 of assessed value for vehicles and $4.75 per $100 of assessed value for tangible personal property.

Stormwater utility fee rates are, however, projected to increase from $294 to $308.70.

The budget funds the Alexandria School Board’s operating budget transfer request of $258.7 million, which is an increase of $9.9 million, or 4%.

“You’re also going to see a fairly significant emphasis on public safety and first responders,” Parajon told Council.

Parajon is also asking for $500,000 for diverse small business funding. That particular funding request comes after the city recently abandonedgrant program aimed at helping minority business owners after a lawsuit claimed the program was discriminatory against white people.

The budget provides:

  • A 7% market rate adjustment for sworn fire, medics and fire marshals
  • A 6% market rate adjustment for sworn police and Sheriff’s Deputies
  • A 2% increase in General Schedule and Sheriff’s Deputy pay scales
  • A $4.5% market rate adjustment for non-public safety personnel
  • Three new steps in the general pay scale, which is a 7% increase in salary potential
  • 25 SAFER grant-funded firefighters
  • Funding for Commonwealth’s Attorney staffing for more than $600,000 toward the APD body worn camera program, which launches in April

Parajon asked all departments for 1.5%-to-2% in budget reductions in their proposals, with efficiencies including the outsourcing of city employee leave of absence reviews, benefits consulting, and city vehicle fleet repair.

The manager is also advising Council to consider an “alternative” 1 cent increase in real estate taxes, which would reduce borrowing for the Alexandria City High School Project, increase city employee compensation and provide an additional pay increase of 1% over what’s being proposed for city and Sheriff’s Office employees.

That 1 cent would also fund:

  • An emergency services bed-finder for $79,225
  • A new bilingual clinical psychologist to help city employees experiencing trauma for $166,380
  • A construction project manager for $212,445
  • Out of school time staffing for $200,000
  • Summer youth employment expansion for $200,000

Parajon, who also presented a $2.39 billion 10-year Capital Improvement Program (CIP), proposes $367.2 million for Schools capital projects, including $39.5 million in cost escalations for projects currently underway like the George Mason Elementary School project.

The FY 2024-2032 CIP includes:

  • $282 million for the city’s stormwater management systems
  • $185.1 million for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s capital program
  • $63.3 for citywide street reconstruction and repaving
  • $48.2 for capital infrastructure improvements associated with the Waterfront Implementation Project
  • $17.4 million to renovate Four Mile Run Park

“I certainly look forward to working alongside my colleagues as we spend the next next few months engaging with the community to provide a budget,” said Mayor Justin Wilson.

There will be multiple public forums to discuss the budget, the next being a public presentation by Parajon on Thursday, March 2 at 7 p.m. at Charles E. Beatley, Jr. Central Library (5005 Duke Street), followed by a City Council/School Board budget work session on Wednesday, March 8, and budget public hearings on March 13 and March 18.

The budget will be approved on May 3 and go into effect on July 1.

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