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Under Pressure - Source Connection news papers

Posted on May 16,2017
Filed Under Local Politics , Politics,

Alexandria budget staff, from left: Morgan Routt, director of management and budget; Matthew Evans; Nicole Evans; Whitney Harris; Alex Braden; Alyssa Ha (obscured); Martina Alexander; and Arthur Wicks. La’Tangela Bellamy (not pictured) was seated in a row behind them. Photo by Vernon Miles.

Source Connection news papers

By Vernon Miles

The budget process is over for the year, but the tense and often bitter disagreements on the dais have revealed some deep cracks in the city’s leadership.

In a 6-1 vote on May 4, the City Council approved the FY 2018 budget. The vote pushed Alexandria’s tax rate up 5.7 cents, from $1.073 to $1.13 per $100 of assessed value. The original budget proposed by City Manager Mark Jinks included a 2.7 cent increase to fund the rising cost of Metro and schools, but during the add/delete process the budget grew by 3 cents primarily to fund Alexandria Public Schools projects and affordable housing projects. With the increased sewage fees, the total cost tax increase for local residents will be closer to 8.9 cents. For the majority on the council, the new tax rate increase is essential to fund long-delayed infrastructure needs. But the final weeks of the budget process were mainly defined by a standoff between the council and Mayor Allison Silberberg, who said the tax rate increase was too much to put onto local citizens.

Silberberg proposed deferring/cutting three projects from the budget that didn’t have an immediate need to keep the tax rate at the city manager’s original proposal. The exact terminology of whether these were cuts or deferrals largely depended on who was being asked. Silberberg said the projects would be cut from the FY 2018 budget, but Vice Mayor Justin Wilson argued that pushing those projects into FY 2019 would only delay the tax rate increase and potentially increase the cost of those projects. Silberberg also argued that the original proposed budget had already included ample funding for schools and affordable housing, but the other members of the council said they believed the need to invest in city infrastructure justified the increase.

Source Connection news papers

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