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City Council budget approval funds ACPS, citywide pay increases and collective bargaining agreements

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

Alexandria City Manager Jim Parajon’s $884.3 million fiscal year 2024 budget was unanimously approved by City Council Wednesday night (May 4), backing citywide pay increases, a fully funded school system and collective bargaining agreements with the police and fire departments.

While the real estate tax rate remains unchanged at $1.11 per $100 of assessed value, city residents will have to pay $308.70 annually for the stormwater utility fee — an increase from $294 last year. The budget, which goes into effect July 1, is an increase of 5.4% over last year’s $839.2 million budget. About 47% of it ($398 million) is dedicated to paying the salaries of 2,765 city employees.

“You’re seeing some some very historically significant investments in public safety,” Mayor Justin Wilson said. “This budget is the first that is informed by the results of two very large collective bargaining agreements.”

City Council Member Kirk McPike said that funding the collective bargaining agreements will help the city fight rising crime.

“Our public safety officers should feel confident that this council has their backs and will continue to invest in these important services,” McPike said. “Those in our city who are worried about the recent rise in certain types of crime (should) take heart that we hear and share your concerns. We’re putting financial resources into ensuring that our police department has the officers and equipment it needs to address this challenge.”

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 launched in April

Parajon faced a $17 million budget shortfall when he started crafting the budget, but it was wiped away by unexpectedly high real estate assessments and $4.6 million in citywide efficiency reductions. He asked all departments for 1.5%-to-2% in budget reductions, with efficiencies like the outsourcing of city employee leave of absence reviews, benefits consulting, and city vehicle fleet repair.

“This adopted budget invests in helping our residents and businesses become more prosperous, safer, more engaged while investing in the infrastructure of our City, and investing in our future with climate action, education, housing and our youth,” Parajon said.

City Council Member Alyia Gaskins says that the budget sends a message to first responders and residents.

“I believe that we are saying to our staff in our fire and police departments that you matter to us,” she said. “We’re saying to our residents that we are committed to recruiting and retaining the best talent to keep you safe through fully funding the operating budget for our schools, and increasing investments in our summer youth employment program, as well as finding ways to waive summer fees for our lowest income residents at our rec centers. We are saying to our young people that you matter to us and we are committed to doing all we can to help you thrive.”

The budget also fully funds the Alexandria City Public Schools $258.7 million operating funds budget request, which will provide 2,600 ACPS employees with a 3% step increase. The request is a 4% increase ($9.9 million) over the FY 2023 budget.

“We have stretched the dollar and been able to keep our tax rate level,” Vice Mayor Amy Jackson said. “Close to a third of our budget is dedicated to our schools.”

Parajon’s budget also provides $2.4 billion in funding for the 2024-2033 Capital Improvement Program, of which $360,788,867 is dedicated for FY 2024.

Funded capital projects this next fiscal year include:

Wilson said he’s in favor of a shorter budget process. This year, the City Manager presented his budget proposal in February, followed by two-and-a-half months of City Council work sessions and meetings.

“I will note this was a shorter process,” Wilson said. “Nobody seemed to miss the extra weeks that were part of the process. So, it might give us a path to even further shorten it in the future.”

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