Comment Board

Latest comment posted 127 months ago

FY 2011 Budget Process

The City of Alexandria expects Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 to be another challenging year based on early economic forecasts. As the City begins the budget process, we would like your input regarding the FY 2011 Operating Budget and Capitol Improvement Program.

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The City of Alexandria could reverse its deficit in 30 days by selling off the dozens of high end luxury townhomes it currently owns and gives rent free to public housing. In one neighborhood alone Quaker Hill, the city owns many beautiful townhouses (community pool, club house, free yard maintenance, gorgeous landscaping) that are worth 450,000-550,000 each. Plus the condos. Do the math, that’s 30 million dollars the city owns in one luxury neighborhood 10 minutes from the Pentagon. That buys a lot of rent vouchers. Today there are 377 rental properties available now empty in Alexandria. Those persons should get rental vouchers. The townhouses in Quaker Hill should be sold via Alexandria Real estate agents who are chosen by a drawing. They should be sold one by one agent per townhouse. The new buyers will make improvements, and it will be win win for the local economy. There is one townhouse in Quaker Hill on sale now by a private owner for the 600’s. While TC Williams and the local public schools implode from neglect, Alexandria is hoarding this INSANE cache of sought after properties in YOUR DISTRICT at the luxury level for public housing in zip code 22314. The city is in the red. Our schools need the money now, not later. That is the solution for the city to get out of debt.

Alexandrienne (182) | User | October 20, 2010 - 7:39 PM

I agree with the comment about the terrible condition of AX schools. I do not mean the physical plant (T.C. Palace), I mean the achievement rate of pupils. Maybe you should tie property tax growth to academic achievement in ACPS.

Bitt T (167) | User | May 29, 2010 - 3:48 AM

are City employees also paying the $100 fee for the fitness center? They should

delray4420 (164) | User | May 26, 2010 - 11:41 AM

I am very concerned by the proposal to charge a $100 annual fee for those City residents who wish to use the fitness center at Charles Houston while maintaining free access for the other parts of the recreation center. Several concerns:

1) How was this decision formulated and on what basis? Does the Center incur higher costs to maintain the fitness center? If so, why is that?

2) How does the Center plan to enforce this new fee? Will our Membership cards reflect whether or not we have paid the fee? How will the fee be paid? Will there be a guard at the doors to the fitness room to enforce this policy?

As others have mentioned, the Charles Houston Center is a welcome addition to our community that allows all Alexandrians of all income classes to participate together in their fitness. However, this new policy seems designed to impose fees on a certain subset of the population. If fees are required to help maintain the Center, they should be applied on all users, with appropriate discounts for those of lower incomes. It is patently unfair to single out users of one facility at the Center.

Jofi Joseph (160) | User | May 18, 2010 - 5:11 PM

I regularly use the fitness center at Charles Houston. It is heartening to see seniors in there during the day trying to stay healthy on the bikes or treadmills. Charging a fee would discourage these folks (on a fixed income) from their efforts to stay healthy. Please, having a fitness center in Parker-Gray neighborhood was a brillian idea. Don't ruin it by charging a fee.

Paula Kougeas (159) | User | May 2, 2010 - 10:25 AM

To Whom It May Concern:

I recommend that you reconsider the proposed fees to use the fitness centers at recreation centers. These fees should NOT be initiated for the following reasons:

As a taxpayer, I feel that this is one of the few services that I directly benefit from, and it is very disappointing to me that this benefit will soon be diminished.

Second, charging to use the fitness center but not other areas of the recreation center is arbitary; there is no obvious distinction between running on the treadmill and shooting some hoops, and it is quite unfair to charge some users of the recreation center and not others.

Third, the recreation centers are used by a lot of low- or lower-income residents of the city. Many people in our city cannot afford private gym memberships, and this fitness center provides an important service for those who could not otherwise afford it. Given the obesity crisis and other public health problems plaguing our nation (and including the city of Alexandria), providing a public fitness center at no cost is an important government function. The likely consequence of charging this fee is that those people who need the public fitness center the most will no longer have access.

Finally, the amount of income expected to be generated by this initiative ($30,000) is quite insignificant in the grand scheme of things, considering that the total budget is more than $534,000,000. It is not worth the costs that individuals would have to bear with paying the fees.

fitnessuser (158) | User | April 28, 2010 - 6:19 PM

Alexandrian Taxpayers are now being asked to accept a substantial tax increase on devalued properties for reduced services in the midst of the worst recession in 80 years. This is what our City Manager calls a “status Quo” budget.

Regardless of one’s Party or personal ideology, we simply can’t continue down this path. It simply won’t hold up much longer.

Our schools recently ranked LAST in the country in terms of bang for the buck. Taxpayers are now paying more than $18,000 a year for students to attend a $100 million+ high school.

The City’s debt service to pay for the past projects cost taxpayers $37.1 million this year alone. This debt service has grown by an astounding 322% over the last ten years. The City projects our debt service to rise to more than $68 million within nine years-- creating additional stresses on future budgets, regardless of the state of the economy.

While private industry has taken advantage of cheaper and more efficient technologies to streamline their bureaucracies, the number of full-time employees working for the city has grown by 9.8%. This must stop. There must be real reductions in City staff, and not the Smoke & Mirror games of simply eliminating empty positions.

Spending on the Planning and Zoning Department has grown by over 203% over the last ten years. With new development at a virtual standstill in these challenging times, the time to prune this overgrown weed is now well overdue. Replacing the top leadership of this bloated department allow the City to control costs and revitalize King Street which is now increasingly populated with empty store fronts and adult specialty stores.

The City has allocated approximately $3 million in assets towards a well meant, but poorly designed, program to assist as many as 12 “urban nomads” a year. Someday, ten City employees will be overseeing 12 troubled people. Think about that number. 10 highly paid City employees to oversee, at most, 12 people. Not exactly a model of efficiency.
To make matters worse, as of this date, this gold plated monument to waste has failed to provide our most needy citizens with a single meal, a single night’s shelter or even a blanket. This program should be eliminated and the building sold to private interests so it can generate additional tax revenue. The Community Services Board, which is in charge of this project, should also be audited, have all of its programs re-evaluated and its leadership replaced.

We must also avoid the professional politicians’ jaded trick of budget cutting where it will do the most visible damage in order to intimidate our citizens to support yet more tax increases. Budget cuts should focus on waste, inefficiency, and nonproductive bureaucratic exercises--not the street cop, EMTs or fire fighters who put themselves at risk to protect us.

In addition to the above, we have a few proposals for you to consider. These proposals will save substantial funds while having a minimal impact on City Services.:
1. Immediate Savings: $300,000 to $1.45 million per year.
a. Modest pay reductions for all City Employees earning more than $100,000 per year.
i. 1 percent = $290,000
ii. 3 percent = $870,000
iii. 5 percent = $1,451,000
Note: This would impact a total of 246 of the City’s highest paid employees, but the average City Employee, including the cops & firefighters on the street would not be touched.
2. $2 million
a. Reduce the Planning & Zoning Department staffing to 2000 levels.

City Council should also immediately let the well meaning volunteers of the Alexandria Street Car Coalition know it’s not going to happen. The City doesn’t have hundreds of millions of dollars for their projects.

Folks, if you think the current budget is a challenge, just wait until our debt service doubles, change course now, institute real budget cuts and right sizing of City staff while it can be done with minimal sacrifice.

The real question is: Does City Council have the Intestinal fortitude to make real changes now, or will they continue to hide their heads in the sand and ignore the obvious until it is too late.

A few cuts now will prevent major cuts in the future.

Time is running out...

Bud Miller (61) | User | April 21, 2010 - 9:11 AM

Wow, why such trolley hate. I read a City budget memo last year and it stated that the trolley was paid by way of the room and meals tax increase. I don't think the City would decrease these taxes if they eliminated the trolley.

The City has also made the trolley operations more efficient, through using ARRA funds to purchase its own trolleys, this decreases the operating dollars required to run the trolleys because the city no longer needs to rent them.

I'm not sure why the trolley has become such a lightning rod of hate, if anything, it most definitely adds to the marketability of Alexandria which in-turn increases tourists traffic which results in higher sales-tax, room tax, and meals tax revenues. These additional revenues allow a greater diversification of revenue (that most residents seem to be demanding) and allow the city to not so heavily rely on the property tax rate. To diversify revenue and place less of a burden on residents the trolley needs to be kept.

MRahoney (154) | User | April 13, 2010 - 9:36 AM

I applaud efforts to cut spending and do not endorse any increase in taxes to make up the budget gap. The city should do what most of us have to do when money is tight--look for ways to trim our spending. It is unreasonable to ask citizens to pay higher taxes when many of us are either not getting raises, taking pay cuts, or even getting laid off. We have to tighten our belts and the city needs to do the same, as many others commenters have stated.

Specifically in regards to the reduction in library hours: if that is necessary as part of an overall budget spending reduction, then I will reluctantly support it. But I would ask the city to reconsider the specifics of which operating hours will be eliminated. In my neighborhood, the Duncan branch serves many families with dual working parents who utilize the evening hours primarily or exclusively. There are many special programs offered at the library during evening hours as well. Instead of changing the operating hours to 10-7 during the week, why not 11-8 or even 12-9? That way you could preserve the evening availability but still achieve the same level of savings. Alternately, offer for example a M & W 9-5, Tu & Th 12-9 schedule--again, same amount of reduction without completely sacrificing evening hours.

Patty Brady (152) | User | April 8, 2010 - 10:42 AM

I favor a tax increase that will allow the Human Resources Dept in police and parking services to affect a broader sample. Clearly you do not have resources to monitor a family of 5 riding bicyles down the middle of King street creating a very dangerous situation for a Dash bus driver. With one simple tipping point, a child would have been in front of bus, having fallen, and then, of course, the bus driver is charged. He was over cautious in his work. I admire him. I might also suggest that police officer would focus on outliers such a the middle of King Street in front of bus. The parents are empowering the children to be citizens that care only for their joy without safety concerns.Change the parking meters to $5.00 per hour on Aflred St. Can you set it for 3 hours. This revenue should be adequate for the space.

If I cannot complete my service requested at the Sugar House Salon, and (after years of being a customer there) and if I forget to ask the very sweet employees to feed the meters, why should I be charged with a parking ticket. Your public policy is punishing good faith citizens Why,do we have human resources dispensing speeding tickets to senior citizens and Mom's with precious infants in the correct seating on a whim. I called the police department to state my concern regarding the offenses I see every day - with no police presence. I suggest something is very wrong. For example, as I speak to friends and family about challenging a speeding ticket, it is highly suggested to me that I be smart and just pay the fee. Here is, yet, one more tipping point in public policy. Something is not right when a citizen of Alexandria since 1973 has trouble navigating Alexandria's system. What is wrong? Why are you punishsing good citizens? Philosophically, it should work the other way - Right?

Dr. Margaret Cofer (151) | User | April 8, 2010 - 7:31 AM

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