Feeling the Heat

Feeling the Heat

Council members get an earful about the property tax rate.

The Alexandria City Council is literally sweating the numbers this year — especially Mayor Bill Euille. He says he can’t escape comments from residents and voters who want to talk about rising tax bills at every opportunity.

“When I’m sitting in the sauna at the Y, I can’t rest without folks talking about this issue,” Euille said.

Saturday’s public forum brought the complaints out of the sauna and into City Hall, where several speakers complained about property tax bills. The city manager’s proposed tax rate of 84.7 cents for every $100 of assessed value would raise the average tax bill $427 from $4,035 to $4,462.

“We heard assurances that when the new city manager took control, he would bring spending down and spare homeowners double-digit percentage increases in their property taxes,” said Jack Sullivan. “That has not happened. Now it is up to you, the council.”

“In 2003, we placed our faith and trust in this City Council, but these past three years have been disappointing,” said Maria Wildes. “If you want to be on the City Council, you’ll need our votes.”

Several speakers encouraged the City Council to have city employees pay for part of their health-care costs, a proposal that has the support of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce. Other speakers supported Lou Cordia’s proposal that the council limit the spending increase to 3 percent.

“We were ignored last year. And it’s becoming clear that we’ll be ignored again this year,” said George Barnsness. “You all have never seen a spending program that you don’t like.”

Roger Waud suggested that the all-Democratic City Council might be doing damage to the Alexandria Democratic Committee.

“What kind of legacy are you leaving your party?” he asked. “You may not be here in ten years, but your party will.”

After the public hearing was closed, Councilwoman Joyce Woodson suggested that the tax rate might be too low. Woodson, the only member of the council who is not seeking reelection, said that many of the speakers were uninformed about the budget process.

“I think it’s a disgrace when they say we don’t need X when they don’t even know what X is,” Woodson said. “I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that we publish a higher rate.”

A final decision on the tax rate will be made on April 24.