City Manager Rashad Young submitted his proposal for a $634.8 million General Fund Operating Budget for Fiscal Year 2015 before City Council Tuesday, Feb. 25, reflecting an increase of 1.6 percent over last year's budget while maintaining current real estate and personal property tax rates.
“Expenditures are growing at a faster rate than revenue,” said Young in detailing his proposed budget during a press briefing earlier in the day. “The challenge always is how to put together this big jigsaw puzzle to meet the needs of the different constituencies and stakeholder groups.”
The proposed budget, part of an All Funds budget of $794.4 million, was assembled using a new budget framework developed with the city's performance management system, Results Alexandria, and focused on the city's budgeting philosophy: aligning long-term outcomes with core city services wanted by residents.
“This is the seventh straight year of budgetary challenges, where the cost of current services and previous commitments exceeds our revenue growth,” Young said. “So rather than begin the conversation with what departments spent last year and making adjustments from there to achieve a budget solution, we instead looked at the outcomes defined in the City Manager's Performance Plan and the city's Strategic Plan and focused our financial resources accordingly.”
The proposed budget includes $190.6 million for Alexandria City Public Schools, a 2.62 percent increase over FY2014 but $2.5 million less than requested by the ACPS School Board.
Young's Capital Improvement Program proposes a $1.46 billion capital investment over the next 10 years including $92.5 million in FY2015.
“Our new budget philosophy focuses us on where money is spent and goes back to the basic question: what is government supposed to provide?” Young said. “The result is a more balanced, sustainable proposed budget that pushes resources towards services that advance the outcomes we seek, while reducing, or in some cases eliminating, funding for programs that are duplicative, less effective or of a lower priority.”
While Young's proposal maintains a residential real estate tax rate of $1.038 per $1,000 of assessed value, additional revenue is expected due to the increase in property assessments. With an average Alexandria home value of $490,422, homeowners will see a $190 increase in their $5,091 tax bill.
Under the proposed FY2015 budget, which begins July 1, 33 full time city employees will be eliminated from the 2,515 workforce, most in the Department of Parks and Recreation. Young also proposed eliminating the Senior Taxi service and an annual donation to the local law library, saving the city $160,000 and $121,000 respectively. A renegotiated contract with the Animal Welfare League is expected to save an additional $98,000.
Young stressed that this budget maintains the city's self-imposed debt limit, “except for Potomac Yard.”
“I say except for Potomac Yard because we have explained this to the financial rating agencies and they concur with our investment in transit at Potomac Yard,” Young said. “Also, it is important to say that this debt limit is self-imposed because City Council set the limit; no outside agency did.”
Young is also proposing performance-based increases for eligible city employees, setting aside $4.6 million for merit pay. No changes were made to city employee health benefits although retirees will be asked to begin paying for their own life insurance premiums.
City Council will hold nine work sessions throughout March and April to review the proposed budget. Residents may provide comment at a special budget public hearing on March 10 and a tax rate public hearing on April 12. All sessions are open to the public and will be recorded and posted online. In addition, there will be a public budget presentation March 17 at Beatley Central Library. The public may submit comments online or speak at the public hearings.
Details about the proposed budget, public budget presentation and public meetings can be found at alexandriava.gov/Budget.