Local Democrats Divided Over Expunging Criminal Records — “House Democrats and Senate Democrats are deadlocked over how people accused of minor crimes should be able to clear their records, a clash that has stalled action for now on one of the most important criminal-justice reform efforts on the agenda for Democrats now that they have seized control of the General Assembly.” [Alexandria Gazette]
Personal Property Taxes Due Next Week — “The City of Alexandria reminds taxpayers that 2020 Vehicle and Business Personal Property Taxes are due December 15. City Council extended the Personal Property Tax due dates until December 15, 2020 to provide vehicle and business owners with additional time to pay.” [Patch]
Port City Founder Warns Excise Tax Rate Increases Could be Final Blow to Small Breweries — “I talked to the founder of Port City Brewing Company in Alexandria, Virginia, and he told me he used his tax cut savings to start offering retirement benefits to his full-time employees. If his taxes go up, he’s going to have to start cutting back on those benefits.” [Yahoo]
Zebra Compiles List of Restaurants With Outdoor Heating — “Don’t let winter cold stop you from your favorite restaurant around town. Many restaurants have installed heaters to make your outdoor dining more comfortable.” [Zebra]
What a week full of news in Alexandria.
With city offices closed due to Veterans Day on Wednesday, there were still a number of big stories.
For the second week in a row, our top story was on a fraudulent mailer that was sent out to a number of residents before election day. In the story, households with Joe Biden signs posted in front yards were sent letters with a Northern Virginia postage mark stating that Biden is a pedophile.
On Monday, we reported the third murder in the city this year. Yousef Tarek Omar, a 23-year-old Texas man, was shot to death in the West End on the afternoon of Saturday, Nov. 7. Police have released few details of the incident, except the victim’s name, the general time of the incident and that it occurred in the 4800 block of W. Braddock Road.
City Councilwoman Del Pepper announced on Tuesday that she will not seek reelection. Pepper has been on the Alexandria City Council since 1985.
“There’s really not much to say,” Pepper told ALXnow. “There’s a time for everything, and I just felt this was my time. I have enjoyed every minute that I’ve served on the City Council.”
We also covered the city’s recovery plan for parts of the city devastated by the pandemic, and it lists a number of programs and strategies for impacted residents and businesses.
On the coronavirus front, Alexandria surpassed 4,500 cases since the beginning of the pandemic in March. The number of fatalities is still 76, and Latino residents have the highest number of infections.
Additionally, our weekly poll got a lot of attention this week. This week we asked about Thanksgiving plans, and 60% of respondents said they were eating at home with their household, 30% are planning a small gathering with at least one guest, and 10% are planning a large gathering of family/friends.
- Alexandrians with Joe Biden Yard Signs Get Anonymous Letters Saying Biden is a Pedophile
- BREAKING: 23-Year-Old Shot to Death in City’s Third Murder of the Year
- ‘Clyde’s at Mark Center’ and Other Businesses for Sale in Alexandria
- Del Ray Staple Al’s Steak House for Sale After Owner’s Death
- The Waypoint at Fairlington to Break Ground Next Month
- Councilwoman Del Pepper Announces She’s Not Running for Reelection
- City Council to Consider Publishing Names of Delinquent Real Estate Taxpayers
- Upcoming Signage Plan Could Subtly Shape New Potomac Yard Skyline
- One Person Injured in West End Carjacking
- Alexandria Parents Start #OpenACPS Sign Campaign as School System Begins Partial Reopening
- Alexandria Surpasses 4,500 Cases of COVID-19, Counts Now Rising at Summer Pace
Have a safe weekend!
If you’re behind more than $1,000 in real estate taxes in Alexandria, everybody is likely to know about it soon.
The Alexandria City Council will decide on Tuesday whether to publicly post the names of delinquent real estate taxpayers owing more than $1,000.
The list of the top 20 delinquent taxpayers totals compiled for Council by city staff totals $835,148 in missing funds. It includes a homeowner with three parcels who owes the city more than $130,000 and a longtime Alexandria social club that owes more than $30,000.
Mayor Justin Wilson said that jurisdictions around the country publish such a list.
“My understanding from our Finance Department is that the prospect of publication of delinquency does frequently encourage taxpayers to address their past due balances,” Wilson told ALXnow. “Our ability to fund the services that the residents of our community expect and demand requires that all residents pay their fair share of taxes. We have a variety of relief programs available for those who have difficulty doing so, and we spend millions to fund those programs each year. In fact, this year, we have expanded those programs due to COVID impacts to support taxpayers experiences unemployment and underemployment.”
But City Councilman Mo Seifeldein would prefer that the names not be made public.
“As a general practice, I’d rather have these matters resolved internally without public input, but there’s a public interest in knowing who’s paying their fair share,” Seifeldein said. “I’ll have to read the code to see whether it’s permissible or required. If it’s permissible, then I think we should exercise discretion as to when we publish this and it should be a last resort, not the first.”
City Council will discuss the issue at its upcoming meeting on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Drug Take Back Day is October 24 — “Safely dispose of your unused and expired medicines during Drug Take Back Day on Oct. 24, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Drop off locations will be available at APD Headquarters, Fire Station 210, and the Neighborhood Pharmacy of Del Ray.” [Twitter]
Council Approves Real Estate Tax Deferral — “Yesterday Council approved a resolution providing for a ‘hardship deferral’ option for payment of Alexandria’s second half real estate tax payment. Upon request, this allows an individual taxpayer to defer payment of the November 16th payment until March 1.” [Twitter]
Online Job Fair October 22 — “Attention job seekers and employers! Register now for JOB-TOBER, a free regional online job fair on October 22, 2-6 p.m.” [Twitter]
Impacted Alexandria Landlords Can Get Financial Assistance — “Landlords can now apply to receive financial assistance for current and past-due rental payments dating back to April 1, 2020 on behalf of their tenants who qualify for the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program.” [Twitter]
Brewski’s Barkhaus Opens — “While dogs are not allowed directly in the restaurant area, there are plenty of spaces for them to hang out and make friends in the indoor and outdoor play areas.” [Alexandria Living]
Today’s Weather — “Mainly cloudy (during the day). High 71F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph. A few clouds from time to time (at night). Low 56F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]
New Job: Social Media Specialist — “The Social Media Specialist is a highly motivated, creative individual with experience and passion for developing turn-key online marketing services for our restaurant clients.” [Indeed]
(Updated at 12:30 p.m.) The Alexandria City Council on Saturday will consider extending the deadline for paying the second installment of real estate taxes until March 1, 2021.
Council will consider the extension at its public hearing on Saturday, October 17.
The tax payments, which make up 63.4% of the city’s general fund budget.
“While the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our entire community, the City recognizes that the financial impact on some taxpayers may be particularly substantial,” according to language that City Council will consider. “If the COVID-19 pandemic has affected your ability to pay the full amount of the 2020 second installment of Real Estate Tax due by November 16, please email [email protected] to discuss your circumstances and learn about payment options.”
The resolution going before Council states that the city’s finance director should not charge a penalty for residents who pay their taxes by March 1 — if that resident has been impacted by COVID-19.
After Flooding, Councilman Says City Stormwater Management Needs Work — “Councilmember Chapman tells 7 On Your Side Thursday’s flooding means city leaders need to quickly consider wholesale changes in terms of storm management.” [WJLA]
City Extends Deadline on Personal Property Tax Payments — “To provide relief for our residents and businesses during the ongoing pandemic, the City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday evening to extend the deadline for payment of the Personal Property Tax (Car Tax and Business). Payments are now due on December 15th.” [Twitter]
Casa Chirilagua Gets Grant to Develop Wifi-Friendly Outdoor Space — “AlexandriaVA.gov and Casa Chirilagua are working together to bridge the digital divide by building a safe and comfortable outdoor space with Wi-Fi for local students.” [Facebook]
Beyer Says Trump Watches Too Much TV — “The President says he is watching many hours of television a day as the country continues to reel amid its worst and deadliest crisis in most Americans’ lifetimes.” [Twitter]
City Wins National Technology Award for Remote 911 Call-Taking — “The annual PTI Solutions Awards recognize PTI member cities and counties that have implemented or updated innovative technology solutions within the past 15 months that positively affected local government performance and service to the public.” [CompTIA]
ALIVE! Free Food Distribution on Saturday — “ALIVE! Truck-to-Trunk will distribute food at two drive-through sites on Saturday, September 12 from 8:30 am – 10:30 am at the parking lots of Cora Kelly (3600 Commonwealth Ave) and John Adams (5651 Rayburn Ave) Elementary Schools. This distribution includes bags of shelf stable groceries, fresh produce, and eggs, while supplies last. People are encouraged to drive through. Walks-ups should maintain 6 feet social distance, wear a face mask, and bring carts or reusable bags to carry food home. “[Facebook]
Today’s Weather — “Sunshine and clouds mixed during the day. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. High 82F. Winds NNE at 5 to 10 mph. At night, partly cloudy. Low near 65F. Winds ENE at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]
New Job: Spa Coordinator — “This experience includes answering phones, scheduling spa services, greeting all customers, assisting with inquiries, and processing point of sale transactions for all products, always exceeding expectations.” [Indeed]
A regional gas tax usually goes to supporting the capital funding for WMATA, but data presented at the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission meeting last night showed that regional gas spending has taken a nosedive in the last few months.
Starting in March, gas tax revenue started to dip below $3 million. While the gas tax revenue has fallen to $2 million in March in years past, by June it had plummeted far below that. For the entire region, roughly $500,000 was collected in gas tax revenue, compared to over $3 million in February.
In Alexandria, gas tax revenue fell from over $150,000 in May to under $50,000 in June.
The tax is calculated from sales two months earlier, meaning the June figures reflected the dive in funding from April, shortly after the stay-at-home order was issued.
The tax was increased this year to 20.2 cents per gallon starting July 1, and is scheduled to increase over the next three years to 28.2 cents per gallon.
Alright, which of you went to a movie in April?
At the height of the pandemic, when nearly everything in the city was shut down, the city’s latest revenue report shows that the city still collected $2 in admissions tax. The city’s finance officials ran the numbers and said that meant that four people bought tickets at movie theaters in Alexandria while nearly everything in the city was shut down.
“I don’t have their names, but that is how little revenue we collected in admissions tax,” said Kendel Taylor, the Director of Finance. “There were four people who contributed to that.”
It was one of the few moments of levity in what was otherwise a particularly dour financial report at yesterday’s City Council meeting that showed millions lost in meals tax revenue and transient tax revenue. Sales tax remained high, but only because the figures were from March, before the shutdown started. The lack of tax revenue has led to a gutting of the city budget with projects like the redevelopment for T.C. Williams High School pushed back.
While Taylor said she was grateful that the city went into the pandemic with a strong economy, she was less optimistic about the rate the city will be able to recover. Taylor said there’s no guidebook or methodology for figuring out what happens next, and staff in cities and counties across the country are still working to figure out how deep the economic impact will be and how long it will take to climb out.
“One of the most prevalent theories right now is this recovery is going to be very long and slow,” Taylor said. “It is likely going to take us two years to get to where we ended in December 2019. The economy was really strong at the end of the year and all throughout the year. Everything was ahead of expected. We came into COVID in a really good position. That strength has helped us minimize the cut and the funds balance we’re going to have to use.”
Taylor said the city could benefit from additional federal funding currently in the pipeline — particularly since unlike the CARES Act that funding can be used more flexibly by local government. There were still concerns, Taylor said, that more federal funding for local governments will mean Virginia will feel less obliged to continue sending funding to localities. Alexandria has used CARES Act funding for programs like rental assistance and small business grants.
“The one concern about the federal government providing additional flexible monies is it might lessen the need from the state to push down the second traunch of CARES funding,” Taylor said. “[We’re] continuing to make the argument that the spirit of the CARES funding is direct that it impacts in localities and that the services provided closest to the problems are the best services.”
Staff photo by James Cullum
Alexandria businesses struggled with poor sales during the shutdown, and now that drop in revenue is coming around to leave the City of Alexandria with little commercial tax support for an already strained budget.
According to information shared by Mayor Justin Wilson, the city faced a dramatic drop off in business taxes in April and May.
The city’s 5% meals tax — which in part goes to fund affordable housing and other city needs — brought back $1.7 million less this year than it did last year. Last April, the city collected $2.2 million in meals tax revenue. This year, it collected $570,984.
The transient tax — a tax on lodging in hotels and similar accommodations — fell from $2.2 million to $570,984.
The only number that increased from 2019 to 2020 was the sales tax, likely because the tax was collected in March before the shutdown was implemented.
Some budgetary losses were expected. The city had planned for substantial cuts to both its operating and capital budgets — $46.6 million for the operating budget and $140.6 million for the capital budget. But seeing the numbers in person still stung for officials.
“We are now receiving the gory details of the fiscal impact of COVID,” Wilson said in the Facebook post. “The difficult work of recovery awaits.”
Top photo by James Cullum, graph via Justin Wilson/Facebook
Police Shooter Bashir Takes Insanity Defense for Alleged Stalking/Arson — “[Kashif] Bashir is charged with felony counts of arson, attempted arson, and making a false statement on a consent form to purchase a firearm, as well as nine counts of misdemeanor stalking, unauthorized use of an electronic tracking device, and possession of a firearm by a person acquitted by reason of insanity.” [WTOP]
Residents Cope With Cabin Fever — “Next week puts a little more pressure on me, because when my kids don’t have structure, then they do a lot of fighting.” [Alex Times]
Del Ray Restaurant Status Update — Among the closed restaurants are Los Tios Grill, Nectar Coffee and Wine Bistro, The Garden, and Live Oak Restaurant. Here’s a list of local eateries that are open for carryout and delivery. [Facebook]
Visit Alexandria Provides Updated Citywide Eatery List — “In case you need a quick reference, here’s a list of Alexandria restaurants open for takeout, curbside pickup, or delivery. For details, go to ALXatHome.com.” [Twitter]
ICYMI: Torpedo Factory Art Center Closed Until Mid May — “Hoping everyone is staying safe and healthy during this time. The Torpedo Factory will be closed till mid May. Please visit our artists through their fb pages, Instagram and websites.” [Facebook]
Bag Tax Bills on Bubble as General Assembly Revisits Budget — “Legislators are currently concerned with the immediate threat of the Coronavirus, its impact on Virginians and on the state budget. The implementation of the bills could take a back seat, for now, to the more immediate healthcare and economic problems stemming from the crisis.” [Gazette]
SCAN of Northern Virginia Gets Grant to Combat Child Abuse — “Unfortunately, we anticipate that incidences of child abuse and neglect will skyrocket because of the COVID-19 epidemic… But we have an opportunity this month–during National Child Abuse Prevention Month–to make sure our community is aware of this threat and empowered to protect children and support parents when they need it most.” [Zebra]
Alexandria Times Raises $975 in FOIA Fund — “During the first quarter of 2020, eight people donated a total of $975 to the Alexandria Times FOIA Fund. The Times made three FOIA requests of the City of Alexandria in the first quarter of 2020.” [Alex Times]
Center for Alexandria’s Children Recognizes ‘National Go Blue Day’ — “Don’t forget to #WearBlue for Child Abuse Prevention Month — and please post your photos and tag The Center for Alexandria’s Children, Inc. Raise awareness for Child Abuse Prevention by showing your BLUE all over social media!” [Facebook]