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Letter: Explain ‘Worst’

To the Editor:

As a property owner and taxpayer on the West End, I continue to hear about the impending doom and gloom of the FY14 budget on city services. Many of us are concerned about the city’s tax rate, what services will be cut and how this will impact future projects to improve traffic, safety and education. One important item we also concerned about is our city employees and how many critical positions will be cut.

In the last few years, our tax rate has stayed consistent while some services have diminished. For those of us who have attended public hearings and who have read the proposed budget, there is growing concern about this impending budget crisis. It seems that over the last few years, this has been the “worst budget season in years.” Every time I drive through the Eisenhower Valley, Old Towne and Del Ray, I see nothing but new buildings, new businesses and new condominiums. This leads me to one question: how does this continue to be the worst budget season in years? If we continue to see new buildings, tourists and new residents flocking to Alexandria, why is the city raising taxes, cutting services and losing city staff? I’m perplexed by the dire picture painted by the city manager.

In addition, many worry about the level of services that will be provided by city staff. Over the years, I’ve seen an erosion of services and city staff dedicated to critical programs like domestic violence, as well as parks and recreation. These types of programs are needed to ensure our youth have programs and our victims of personal violence are protected.

The erosion of city pay and benefits is forcing employees to retire early or leave the city. This causes the city to lose senior leadership, creativity and institutional knowledge. In addition, Alexandria Police continue to be the lowest paid on our region. City staff continues to take home less money in their paychecks each year due to rising health care costs. If the current proposed budget passes, most city employees will take home less pay in their paychecks again. This is disgraceful, especially when we ask public safety to put their lives on the line each day.

With all of this doom and gloom, our city manager makes almost $250,000 a year; more than Congress, county executives and many doctors.

So is this really the worst budget season in years?

Mary Craige

Alexandria