Home Substantial portion No Tax Increase in City Budget Proposal, CSGA Fully Funded | ALXnow

No Tax Increase in City Budget Proposal, CSGA Fully Funded | ALXnow

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New City Manager James Parajon may be trying to make a good first impression on the townspeople. His first budget — a continuation of one started under former city manager Mark Jinks — comes with no new tax rate increases. Even so, with rising property valuations, local homeowners can still expect to see taxes go up.

At a meeting today, Parajon joined Budget Director Morgan Routt and other city officials to present the fiscal year 2023 budget to city council.

The budget is $829.9 million, an increase of 7% over the previous year’s budget.

“This budget does not contain a change in the tax rate,” Parajon told reporters at a meeting earlier in the day. “The Board has asked to provide Alternative A, which is a modest increase in tax rate, and Option B, which is a more substantial rate of increase.”

Those rates, Parajon said, would be 1 cent for every $100 increase in assessed value or a 2-cent increase.

The budget office was also able to save more with $1 million in efficiencies and funding from ARPA – of which $21 million is included in the budget. Much of that, Parajon said, will be spent on affordable housing.

While the recommended budget doesn’t change the tax rate, Parajon said the budget was largely funded by revenue growth related to real estate appraisals.

“The real estate market hasn’t slowed down during the pandemic,” Parajon said. “In fact, we’ve seen significant increases in valuation.”

City residents, however, can expect a utility fee increase of $14, from about $280 to $294.

“It helps us accelerate stormwater management and flood mitigation,” Parajon said.

Parajon said residents can expect an average increase of $445 a year in their taxes, with assessment growth taken into account.

Most of the budget increase is dedicated to staff compensation adjustments:

  • Firefighters, nurses, firefighters: 6% salary scale adjustment
  • Police Department and Sheriff’s Office: 5% pay scale adjustment
  • General employees: adjustment of the salary grid by 4%

Parajon said this is in addition to annual step increases for everyone in these sectors.

Josh Turner, president of IAFF Local 2141, said it was a good step but not enough.

“While we appreciate the new city manager’s efforts to address the compensation issues seen in our department, this proposal does not do enough to stop the bleeding,” Turner said. “When you drop 20 points in the fourth quarter, it’s not enough to score when the other team scores. We have to do a full court press to play catch-up.

Turner said that over the past two weeks the city has lost three additional medical firefighters, who left for better pay and working fewer hours in neighboring jurisdictions.

“It takes us three years to recruit, train and prepare someone as a nurse firefighter,” Turner said. “A six percent increase is substantial, but with Fairfax, Arlington and other jurisdictions offering an even bigger increase, it puts us even further behind our competitors. If an Alexandria firefighter earns 70,000 and gets a 6% raise, but a Fairfax firefighter earns 85,000 and also gets a 6% raise, the pay gap between Alexandria and Fairfax firefighters is even higher now.

The Alexandria Police Union said on social media that the department is facing a similar shortage of new recruits to make up for those who are leaving.

Meanwhile, Parajon said the recommended budget will fully meet the demands of CSPA’s budget, which will include a 10.25% increase for teachers.

The budget also includes a 2.4% increase in the ten-year equipment improvement plan (PIC).

“A lot of that includes funding for initiatives that have taken place over the past year, particularly in building schools,” Parajon said. “This includes full funding for CIP ACPS, which includes Minnie Howard’s new high school and the purchase and renovation of an office building.”

The CIP includes $288 million to expand flood mitigation efforts, including projects in the Glebe Road area and spot improvements throughout the city. The CIP also includes $200 million to renovate city facilities.

After tonight’s meeting, Parajon is due to present the budget to the public on Thursday, February 17 at 7 p.m. There will be nine working sessions throughout the spring to review the budget. A special hearing on the public budget is scheduled for Monday, March 7 and a hearing on the addition/removal of tax rates on April 23. The final adoption of the budget is scheduled for 4 May.