BUDGET & TAXES
2011 CIP for schools [pdf]
2018-03 Vice Mayor Justin Wilson spoke about the financial state of the City—no additional tax rate increases this year, only increases in property assessments—and noted large expenses looming for the City:
- The City Manager was told by City Council to develop a budget plan with no tax rate increase with only a $12M increase due to increased property assessments.
- The City Budget had a growth rate of about 6.5% for six years but dropped to a 2% growth rate lately. Revenue growth is low about 1.9%. (Nan notes that since 2012, City Council has increased the property tax rate 13% and added new fees.)
- City Council wants a $10M Capital Improvement Program this year.
- Alexandria is being asked for additional funding for WMATA/METRO to provide a steady funding stream.
- The City has a longstanding storm water management issue and is getting very little (if any) support from Richmond to help fix the problem. (A decade ago, Council passed a tax increase to fix this problem. In 2018 the City assessed a new storm water fee on all properties to fund a solution. The previous tax increase will not be returned to taxpayers but roll into the general fund.)
- The growth rate for student enrollment in Alexandria is the 4th fastest in Virginia. Alexandria has not built a new school in 18 years. City Council brought “a bunch of money to the table” to meet current needs.
To become informed and express your opinion:
- 13 Feb at 7 pm-Consideration of the Calendar Year 2018 Real Property Assessments - Item 26 on the City's docket, City Hall, Council Chamber, 301 King Street, available on-line and tv broadcasts
- 22 February 7 pm-City Manager makes Public Presentation on FY 2019 Budget, Beatley Library, 5005 Duke Street
- 8 March 7:30 pm-Program on the financial state of the City of Alexandria and the new taxes and fees approved by City Council during the SHA monthly meeting, parish house, Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill, 3606 Seminary Road
- 12 March 4 pm-Public Hearing on the Budget with City Council, City Hall, Council Chamber, 301 King Street
2017-12-14 The new Stormwater Utility Fee will be billed by the City twice a year on the Real Estate Tax Bill starting May 2018. Homeowners can use an appeals method to 'challenge' the classification for their property.
2017-11-29 The FY 2019 Budget for the City was discussed at the Alexandria Federation of Civic Associations with the general conclusion that without significant revenue growth, future reductions will be necessary. See link on SHA website "2017-11-29 Budget Presentation to Federation" that suggests a 2% reduction for City departments. Important dates in the process are the ACPS (schools) adoption of CIP and Proposed Operating Budget (Jan 11), City proposed Operating Budget and CIP presentation (Feb 20), ACPS adoption of Operating Budget (Feb 22), public hearing (Mar 12), City adoption of Operating Budget and CIP (May 3).
2017-09-14 The City sold bonds on 25 July for $94.9 M for capital improvements which are sorely needed in the infrastructure. Concern was expressed about the lack of accountability in how funds are being spent.
2017-03-13 All of the City Council Members but not the Mayor voted to double the tax increases proposed by the City Manager. They approved a real estate tax rate increase of 5.6 cents�from $1.07 to $1.13 per $100 assessed value�making the average residential tax increase about $356 not including two new fees for the sewer improvements totaling about $200 annually.
2017-05-11 Alexandria now has one of the highest tax bases in Northern Virginia. The remedy for the storm water runoff will now be funded by a new �fee� as opposed to an increase in the tax. The City�s storm-water tax passed previously will not be rolled back but will go into the general fund.
Nan�s Note: The current Mayor and City Council members were elected in November 2015 after the FY2016 budget was approved with no tax rate increase. They approved an increase of the tax rate for the FY2017 budget (3 cents per $100 value) and the FY2018 budget (5.7 cents per $100 value). They are up for reelection in 2018.
2017-03-09 City Manager Mark Jinks gave a presentation on the City�s FY 2018 Budget and CIP that was followed by questions and discussion. He said there is a glut in office buildings in northern Virginia so tax revenue for the City is down. Alexandria�s share of funding for Metro is going up. Sewer fees will go up 30% this year due to a State-mandated requirement to eliminate the combined waste water and sewage overflow to the Potomac River. He recommended funding the operating budget of the Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) but only part of the CIP funds requested because they are not positioned to spend them in this budget cycle. He has recommended a real estate tax rate increase of 2.7 cents for a total tax rate of $1.10, but City Council funded all of the ACPS request and raised the rate to 5.7 cents to $1.13.
2017-03-09 City Manager Mark Jinks gave a presentation and answered questions about the City budget for more than an hour at the SHA meeting. Members are concerned about looming expenses:
- Fixing the combined sewers in Old Town that dump sanitary sewage directly into the Potomac ($400 M by 2029)
- Maintaining the storm-water pipes we all use ($120 M).
- City�s subsidy to WAMATA (Metro increase, I think $7 M more than last year)
- Schools request for an increase from $229 M to $611 M; see the �School Funding� article in AlexandriaNews.org. The budget proposal gives more to meet most of the operating expenses (a 3.6% increase) and some of the request for new buildings (63% rather than the 166% increase).
Because of the slow growth of the tax base in the past decade, real estate taxes must cover these financial needs. The City Manager proposed to the Mayor and City Council an increase in the real estate tax rate from $1.07 to $1.10 per $100 assessed value (on average $197 increase) and two new fees for the sewer improvements (about $200 more annually). Now is the time to weigh in on this budget proposal. Write to the Mayor and City Council members on the City website http://www.alexandriava.gov/Budget.
2017-02-09 SHA Area 5 representative, Jack Sullivan, provided some information on the upcoming funding crisis. He said that Metro wants $70 M from the City, the Sewage problem must be fixed by 2029, the storm water runoff problem will cost $120 M, and the Alexandria School Board wants $540 M. As such, there is a strong possibility that the property tax rate may have to be increased by 15 to 20 cents per hundred. This led to considerable discussion, particularly about the School Board request. Members noted �confusion� about who is driving the ACPS request � the School Board or the Superintendent. There was general agreement that the Mayor and City Council need to get a better oversight of school spending.
2017-01-12 The SHA Board of Directors passed a resolution in favor of a storm-water fee proposal to pay for needed maintenance on pipes instead of an increase in real estate taxes on private property.
2016-09 The City is proposing a fee on storm-water usage—a “rain tax”—to cover costs of meeting the federal clean water regulations.
2016-05-12 City Council passed the budget and will increase property tax rates to cover the 4.5% increase in the general fund and the 1.9% increase in all funds. The ACPS got a 3.9% increase over current funding. The pay of firefighters was increased 2.5% in an effort to be more competitive with neighboring counties.
2016-03-10 The City Manager proposed two budget increases: 3.46% increase to the General Fund and 1% increase to the All Funds Budget. The budget includes a big increase for the Alexandria City Public School System. Home owners will pay for the increases by higher property assessments along with the rate increases. The City�s process to calculate the value of properties and determine our assessments is not based on market value; the City does not include (leaves out) short sales and foreclosures in the calculation.
2016-02-11 The combined sewer project will cost homeowners $1,700 over the life of the project in addition to Alexandria Renew fees. It will be funded through bond issuance. Cleaning the stormwater sewers is mandated by the State of Virginia EPA.
2015-05-14 City Council passed a budget that increased spending�general funds 1.9 percent, all other funds 1.4 percent, and schools 3.6 percent�but did not raise the tax rate. Expect assessments to go up. City Council continues to kick-the-can-down-the-road on funds to fix problems with the sanitary sewers that EPA is mandating as part of the Chesapeake Bay Clean-up.
2015-03-28 Fire Station 210 near the Van Dorn Metro on Eisenhower was finished but has only emergency medical technicians�no fire fighters�because of a shortage of manpower. The station opened on June 29 but may still be waiting for firefighters. The increase in the FY2016 budget for the Alexandria Fire Department�$44 million to $47million�was taken up by retirement costs. Alexandria now has a total of 10 fire stations; only three are in the West End and the two with firemen are the busiest fire stations in Alexandria.
2015-03-24 City Council missed an opportunity to provide a stadium for students and residents near a Metro when it did not pursue the option of making the Alexandria Renew athletic field into a stadium where football can be played. The City claimed that the field did not meet the �highest standard� (do any of our fields?), it was too expensive (it�s no cost to the City), and it was only guaranteed for 15 years (T. C. Williams stadium has lasted half that).
2015-03-12 SHA sent a letter to the Mayor and City Council�Planning a sound fiscal future for our City--requesting citizen friendly budget information. More data was requested about: 1) the cost of City projects, 2) the school budget, 3) planning for cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay by 2030, 4) debt servicing, and 5) the expected cost for services to new residents in subsidized housing that proffers created (i.e. 94 units on Fairbanks Street by The Hermitage).
2014-01 Michael Lee Pope reported in the Alexandria Gazette Packet—page 3, January 10-22, 2014—that City Council received a financial statement showing the City’s unemployment rate in October went up from 4.4 to 4.9 percent—the highest in the last four years—and the City’s hotel occupancy rate fell from 76.1 in October 2012 to 72.4 percent in October 2013. The average room rate this year was also lower compared with last year.
2013-11-08 A panel of four discussed Changes to the City Budget Process, which of course directly impact our taxes, at SHA’s Annual Meeting.
- Don Buch—a civic activist—expressed concerns that the City has over $500 million in obligations over the next few years, including the new Metro Station in Potomac Yard and school issues. Don recommended a multi-year budget process that would look closely at the City’s debt limit and take a more holistic review of Council decisions because some projects have impacts and costs beyond the obvious numbers in a proposal; especially when building more residential units.
- Nelsie Smith— City’s Budget Director—is new and spoke in general terms about fixing the budgeting process. She said the City cannot live with a “marginal” approach to budgeting. It needs to look at services provided by the City – “what level of service is needed and how often do we do this or that and are we providing the services we need and want.” Once we know the answers, staff will develop a 5 year budget plan and make recommendations to City Council.
- Justin Wilson—Member of City Council—opined that we need to separate campaign rhetoric from reality. We also need to closely evaluate the ACPS’s budget requests. School enrollment has increased more than 2000 students since 2007 with a total of 13,562 students this school year. [Nan’s editorial comment: Why is this a mystery? Council approves all plans to increase residential properties. The Planning Department staff always state that these new bigger projects will NOT increase the number of students in the ACPS because the new people moving in will NOT have children.]
Justin also said that the biggest issue now, as last year, is the Capital Expenditure Plan. Alexandria has the lowest investment in infrastructure in the local area. . [Nan’s editorial comment: More residential units, fewer commercial taxes, more people, more demand on infrastructure (sewers, roads, etc.) The Planning Department staff describes new infrastructure plans in proposals but these projects are never funded by the City; i.e. Arlandria. Citizens agreed in 2006 to an increase in taxes for infrastructure improvements, wonder what we have gotten for it?]
- Paul Smedberg—Member of City Council—noted that the City’s AAA Bond rating is good but limits what the City can do. While he takes a very conservative approach to budgeting, he added that the City has not been getting their fair share of funding from the State Government.
2013-10-10 Don Buch, a former businessman now turned civic activist, discussed an issue paper he developed titled The City of Alexandria, Virginia, The Alexandria 2014 Budget and Beyond. He focused on the City’s priorities and fiscal responsibility in city government. Much of the discussion revolved around Affordable Housing issues and whether too much money was being set aside by City Council for this issue. He feels that City Council needs to plan more than 12 months in advance and make some very difficult decisions/choices about priorities.
2013-08 City of Alexandria recently sold $63.8 million in bonds. Moody’s rating of Alexandria’s bonds is tied to the US Government outlook, which has returned to “stable” after being downgraded in 2011. Standard and Poor’s has continued to rate Alexandria’s bonds as AAA.
2013-06 National Science Foundation will move from Ballston to the Eisenhower Avenue area of Alexandria in 2017—not sure what it will cost City tax payers—inducements were worth tens of millions of dollars to select this site—the Hoffman Town Center.
2013-08-12 In addition to the real estate tax increase of 4%, City Council approved a new structure for the personal property tax relief and increased the rate 5%. The tax on my 2005 Toyota Highlander this year is 8% less than last.
2013-03 City Council approved a real estate tax increase of 4% which combined with the 2.5% increase in assessments is a 6.5% tax increase. Personal property tax was also increased 5%.
2012-04 Residents have complained about the increase in the amount on their sewer bills now that the City has switched from Virginia Water to Alexandria Renew. CEO Karen Pallansch will speak at the June 13 meeting of SHA.
2013-03 The City Manager proposed a tax increase�real estate 4% and personal property 5%�at a time when federal salaries are frozen. The salaries of City staff would also be frozen and they are being asked to pay a deductible for medical plans�$400 for individual and $800 for families�as well as increased contributions to the retirement plan.
2012-01-10 Sewer rates expected to rise 100 percent between 2015 and 2021. A new billing system now separates the cost of sewers from that of water. The funds are needed to repair and/or replace the City�s old storm-water pipes that were built for a suburban community and cannot service the development in the past decade.
2012-05-07 City Council adopted a budget for the fiscal year 2013 that is 3.7 % bigger than last year’s budget. The average homeowner’s tax bill is expected to increase by $52 or 1.2%.
2012-04 The new City Manager Rashad Young gave a budget presentation to City Council that included a Ten-Year Capital Improvement Program (CIP) presentation and funding tables. Some citizens doubt the growth expected by this budget will happen and therefore projects to solve existing infrastructure problems will never get funded.
2012-03-13 City Council authorized the advertisement of an increase in residential and commercial property tax rates for the 2012 calendar year. The base tax rate may be raised up to one cent per year—about a 2.2 percent increase—when Council adopts the budget on May 7. More information is available on the City’s website http://alexandriava.gov/Budget.
2011-10-24 Eileen Bradley, the Interim President of the Burke Branch Friends, is asking citizens to communicate their concerns and support for a fair and decent budget for the library to the Mayor and City Council. While the City had a $9.8 M surplus this year, it may be facing a $14 M deficit next year. Elected officials need to hear from the voters as they move forward in the budget process. Friends of the Libraries would like to continue to recover from the budget hits taken in 2009 and would like the new budget to be better than the current one.
2011-10-24 (continued) The needs of the Alexandria libraries are critical; for example, to preserve services—such as staying open one additional night (started in July 2011)—to increase acquisition of eBooks, and to conduct a needs assessment (the last one was done 16 years ago). In the past the libraries took a hit for the team with major budget cuts that impacted personnel and maintenance. Additional cuts now to their budget will degrade services to the community.
2011-05-02 City Council adopted FY 2012 Budget: property tax rate increased 2 cents to 99.8 per $100 of assessed value for transportation, school capital needs, employee compensations. Average homeowner’s tax bill increase 2.5 % or $107. General fund operating budget increased 6.6 % but only 1/3 was for transportation improvements. Schools got a 4.1 % increase over previous year. City employees’ pension contribution remained same. Commercial Add-on Tax defeated.
2010-12-06 The City is proposing a new commercial tax to raise funds to solve infrastructure problems called the Transportation Add-On Tax. It can be up to 12.5 %. More information is available at http://alexandriava.gov/TransportationAddOnTax.
2010-10-14 The City Manager has announced the proposed budget for 2011. The Public Schools rebuffed City staff input into their budget. Traditionally SHA Board Members do not take a position on budget items since each resident has personal preferences how to spend tax dollars. Citizens are encouraged to write directly to the City with their opinions. See the City website http://alexandriava.gov/budget/info/default.aspx?id=27144.
2010-05-03 The City Council adopted the budget for 2011 that included increased property taxes to support increases in funding for public schools, WMATA, the operating budget, and salaries of City employees. The Council did not establish a new stormwater utility—opposed by SHA as too much bureaucracy—and instead dedicated $0.05 of the property tax increase to stormwater management. In addition parking rates, trash fees, and recycling costs to residents will increase.
2010-05-03 City Council will adopt Alexandria’s next budget. Jim Hartmann, the City Manager, proposes closing the budget gap with an increase in real estate taxes. SHA’s Board of Directors took no position on the budget except to oppose the Storm Water Utility and to urge citizens to write to the Mayor and Council Members in support of programs desired or ones that could be cut.
2010-04-08 The SHA Board of Directors unanimously passed a resolution urging City Council to reject a proposal to establish a Storm Water Utility.
2010-02-22 Citizens from SHA and Brookville-Seminary Valley attended a briefing about the City’s proposal to institute a new fee to finance storm water management. City staff presented lots of good information related to flooding problems and storm sewers. City Council had directed staff to study the option for getting additional funding in addition to the current budget from real estate taxes. The amount of the fee as proposed would increase funding by less than $3 million. Unlike real estate taxes, this fee would not be deductible. City staff would require at least one additional person to run this program and they would set the fee rate and decide appeals.
2010-02-??: A joint meeting on new proposed storm water fee (tax) is planned with Brookville-Seminary Valley civic association. Stay tuned.
Submit comments on the FY 2011 Budget
The City of Alexandria expects Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 to be another challenging year based on early economic forecasts. As the City begins the budget process, we would like your input regarding the FY 2011 Operating Budget and Capitol Improvement Program. Residents are encouraged to submit their comments online at alexandriava.gov/Budget.