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Letter to the Editor: Taxes and Fees Keep Rising

— Last Saturday as I was leaving the parking lot under City Hall, I noticed a sign outlining the new parking fee structure for that lot. Over the years I have recommended to a number of potential “Old Town” visitors that this lot was the most economical and convenient parking venue in “Old Town.” Well, that’s changed. The hourly parking rate has increased from $2 to $2.50, and the maximum rate for hourly parkers entering after 5 p.m. increased from $2 to $4. In addition, the employee monthly parking rate increased from $25 to $30 at the Pitt-Oronoco surface lot and $75 to $90 at all other city parking facilities.

As if that wasn’t enough, I decided to look at the city’s 2014 budget to see what other tax surprises our over-paid city manager and defunct City Council have enacted. So here are most of them extracted directly out of the city’s 2014 Budget Document:

  • The real estate tax rate increased 4.0 cents to $1.038 per $100 of assessed value. The average calendar year 2013 residential real estate tax bill, including the rate change and average increased assessed value, will be $314 greater than 2012.

  • The vehicle personal property tax increased .25 percent or $5 per $100 of assessed value.

  • The consumer utility tax is levied on all residential and commercial users of water, natural gas, and electricity. In FY 2014, the monthly cap on residential electric and natural gas taxes is increased from $2.40 to $3 with no change in the tax rate for a maximum increase of $7.20 per year.

  • The tax on tobacco products is increased from 80 cents to $1 per pack.

  • The fee for residents to temporarily reserve street parking spaces is increased by $10, from the current rates of $30 to $40 for metered spaces and $20 to $30 for non-metered spaces.

The budget includes a variety of fee increases for marina usage, recreational services, and out-of-school time programs. This also includes an increase in outdoor pool fees to support the continued operation of Warwick Pool for FY 2014.

  • The fee for commercial properties receiving refuse collection services is increased from the current rate of $217 per unit of service to $328 per unit of service to be equivalent with the residential fee.

  • The impound lot one-time service fee is increased from $80 to $90 per vehicle, and the storage fee is increased from $40 to $50 per day for each day the vehicle is stored at the impound lot.

  • The permit fee for reviewing construction plans involving excavation is increased by $50, from $200 to $250 per city block excavated.

  • The Farmers’ Market vendor fee is increased to fully recover the cost of staffing, materials and marketing. The Department of General Services will work with the existing vendors to determine the specifics

  • The fee for residents to have mulch delivered to their homes is increased by $10, from $40 to $50 per load.

There are two other taxes that haven’t increased but affect us daily. The Alexandria’s restaurant meals tax rate is 4 percent. It was last increased from 3 percent in FY 2009. The tax is in addition to a 6 percent sales tax (4.3 percent state sales tax, 0.7 percent regional transportation tax, and 1 percent local option). The other tax is the Admissions Tax which is 10 percent of the admissions fee up to 50 cents, this tax is levied on the sale of movie and live theatre tickets. It was implemented by the city during FY 2006.

The city must be desperate for cash by raising all of the aforementioned tax increases. With a debt service at about $60 million per year, our financial status is tenuous at best and could be worse especially if the city decides to build a metro stop in Potomac Yards. That will skyrocket our debt service up to $80-85 million. That why it is important that the Environmental Impact Statement recommends a “no build” for the metro stop. There have been 33 municipal bankruptcies since 2010 and we certainly don’t want to be number 34.

Townsend A. “Van” Van Fleet