Like many other Alexandria citizens, I was tired of hearing that the real estate tax rate increase of 2.7 cents per hundred dollars of assessed property value was not only the smallest increase in five years, but it is also one of the lowest rates for residential and commercial property owners in all of Northern Virginia. So what did the City Council just do? Vice Mayor Justin Wilson proposed a three cent increase to the tax rate, resulting in a total increase of 5.7 cents per hundred. Of course, in this one-party town, everyone on City Council (except the mayor) voted for this new real estate tax rate increase.
Mr. Wilson has finally admitted that the tax-and-spend approach is not working, and that the City Council needs to develop a real plan. This is most ironic, since Mr. Wilson roundly criticized Bob Wood and I during the 2015 election debates for pointing out numerous flaws in Alexandria’s current planning, programming and budgeting system. On numerous occasions, I have also asserted that Alexandria is overdue for an efficiency and effectiveness audit in order to determine its overall financial picture.
We are a city with a debt of $600 million, and an annual debt service of $90 million. Infrastructure costs over the next 10 years will be about $2 billion, which would include $611 million for the schools, and $400 million for mandatory combined sewer systems projects to be completed in the next eight years.
With all of this looming, why is the Alexandria City Council pressing ahead with a $268 million Potomac Yards Metro station that duplicates the existing Bus Rapid Transit system already in place? Additionally, the entire Metro system is hurting, with a greatly reduced ridership, eroded service, and a $290 million debt of its own. Metro has also indicated that it wants the close-in suburbs to contribute even more, so this will be still another unfunded expense. It is patently clear that the City of Alexandria is in need of better fiscal decision-making. Wake up, Alexandria! It is time for the citizens of Alexandria to demand that their elected officials act in a fiscally prudent manner. The failure of management to solve the problems facing us will no longer suffice.
Townsend A. “Van” Van Fleet