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Votes

Five Expectations for 2006

Expect Higher Assessments

Mark Jinks, assistant city manager for fiscal and financial affairs, expects that the average assessment will increase about 18 percent — a smaller increase than last year’s 21 percent assessment increase. Single-family homes are expected to rise by 17 percent, and condominiums are expected to increase 22 percent.

"I know that I’ve been up here for years saying that we’re near the end of the cycle," Jinks told City Council members during their annual retreat in October. "But I think we’ll see a flattening out this year."

Assessments will be issued on Feb. 9.

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Expect a Higher Property Tax Bill.

In November, the City Council set two targets for the coming budget season — and the final budget accepted in April will probably fall somewhere in between. That means that the property tax rate will be set between $0.826 and $0.861, with the average tax bill to be somewhere between $4,323 and $4,506.

Last year’s average tax bill was $4,043, so taxpayers can expect a bill that will increase several hundred dollars.

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Expect City Spending to Grow

Because of November’s target-setting exercise, the first time city government has engaged in such a process, growth in the city’s budget will be somewhere between 6-percent growth and 8-percent growth. The November vote on targets also set a ceiling, so growth in spending will not exceed 8-percent growth.

For the past six years, rising assessments have created a windfall for the city government. Last year, for example, the city received $19.6 million in new money because of the rising value of real estate in the city. This year, the city expects a 12 percent increase in revenue. About 84 percent of that growth will be in new money from property taxes.

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Expect a Vibrant City Council Election

With budget issues set to take center stage, May’s city elections will be a referendum on property tax bills, city spending and responsiveness to voters. Last May, the City Council ignored hundreds of voters who signed a petition urging 3-percent growth in spending. Now, with an election before them, council members face putting a budget together in the midst of a campaign.

On May 2, Alexandria voters will choose six candidates to serve on the City Council. The deadline for candidates to file with the registrar’s office is March 7.

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Expect Several New School Board Members

One member of the School Board — Vice Chairwoman Sally Ann Baynard — has already publicly announced that she’s not running again in 2006. Other board members have privately acknowledged that they do not intend to seek re-election. Challenger Sanford Horn is the only School Board candidate to have filed a statement of organization with the city’s registrar.