ALEXANDRIA, VA – The Alexandria City Council unanimously passed its $761.5 million fiscal year 2020 operating budget on May 1. The budget is a 1.75 percent increase over last year’s budget, and includes $231.7 million transfer to Alexandria City Public Schools – a 3.5 percent, or $7.8 million, increase over last year.
“I do want to thank my colleagues. This process is a difficult one and you rose to the occasion,” Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson told the city council after congratulating staff during the May 1 meeting. “For me, every budget I think has a story and this one, I have to say, was relatively drama-free and not a lot of major highlights. I think, certainly we’re continuing investment enrollment growth on both the operating side and capital side within our schools… Big significant new investments on Metro both on the operating side and the capital side, and that certainly is a big driver. And then significant investments and continuing the progress we’ve made on infrastructure investment on the capital side, and it’s certainly good to see that.”
City Council approved funding for nine new Alexandria firefighter positions, allowing for the fire department to respond to calls with the industry standard of four first responders per engine. A recent fatal fire on Pitt St. had three firefighters on two responding engines, although there is no indication that the lack of staffing would have led to a different result. Otherwise, Alexandria firefighters are still among the lowest paid in the region, working a 56 hour workweek with a starting annual salary of $49,300. Next door, the starting salary for a Fairfax County firefighter is $54,500.
Alexandria City Manager Mark Jinks said that his budget represented very low budget growth, and that it included major capital investments and service improvements.
“As a result of fiscal direction by City Council and prudent financial management and innovative thinking by staff, this is the second year in a row that my proposed budget includes no tax rate increases, no major service reductions, full funding for the Superintendent’s request for the Alexandria City Public Schools operating budget and full funding of the School Board’s adopted 10-year capital plan,” Jinks wrote.
The 2020 real estate tax rate was unchanged for 2020 will remain unchanged at $1.13 per $100 of assessed value, and the average homeowner’s tax bill increases 32 cents per day, or $118 per year. Car owners will see their taxes increase from $5 per $100 of assessed value to $5.33, and city residents will no longer have to display or pay for $33 car decals.
Also in the Budget
The following measures were adopted by the city council in this year’s budget:
- A new customer service system phone line (call 311) with upgraded online features
- Year-long lights in trees along King Street
- The installation of a new racial and social equity officer within the city government
- The annual trash and recycling fee will increase by $38 per year, from $373 to $411
- The fare for the DASH bus system will increase from $1.75 to $2, and will be contingent on the approval from the organization’s board of directors
- The city will provide $2.7 million for Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority improvements to assist in the summer shutdown of Alexandria’s Metro stations for platform upgrades
- Council approved a $1 million increase in annual affordable housing programs from $5 million