EDITORIAL: Tough choices for tough times

(File Photo)

It’s been a while since we sang city council’s praises — it’s been a tumultuous couple of months — but our elected leaders made a commendable decision last week.

Though facing expectations of yet another tough economic cycle, city councilors rightly set aside the option of raising real estate taxes as officials begin crafting next year’s budget.

If you missed it, you’re to be forgiven. It came at the tail end of a quiet city council meeting mere days before Thanksgiving. Those who sat through the discussion of a new parking payment smartphone app, various resident board appointments and a detailed — if tedious — examination of the city’s finances were rewarded with seeing city councilors effectively pledge not to hike homeowners’ taxes anytime soon.

Let’s not get too excited, though. They still left City Manager Rashad Young with the flexibility to tweak other taxes and fees as he creates his proposed financial roadmap for fiscal 2015.

But after this year’s stunning 4-cent real estate tax hike, which added about $315 onto the average property owner’s annual bill, the move certainly is welcome.

One difficult decision, though, sets the stage for many more to come. As City Councilor Tim Lovain noted, nixing a major potential source of revenue will mean tough tradeoffs elsewhere.

It’s too early to know where in the city’s multimillion-dollar budget these tradeoffs will pop up, but we imagine they will hit all of us in different ways. We must be prepared for cuts to causes near and dear to us.

And we must be willing to accept them.

This is easier said than done, of course. Even with the most recent tax hike, we witnessed hard-fought battles to save a community pool and restore library funding during the last budget cycle.

Such battles occur every year, with every new budget proposal. Given city council’s decree, we expect debates to be even more contentious this time.
For this next go-around, though, we hope all participants remember the greater good behind the little evils: sparing hard-hit residents from dipping even deeper into their bank accounts.

Don’t get us wrong. We encourage every resident to weigh in on the budget and trumpet — or defend — the causes they support. But let there be no criticisms of a cold-hearted, callous and uncaring city council as it trims, cuts or slashes areas of the budget.

City councilors showed they cared last week.

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(2) Readers Comments

  1. Our financial problems as a city as structual, and require structural change. There is no reason whatsoever that a city with some of the nation’s highest property values should be hurting for tax revenue. We simply spend too much on too many programs. Recall that tax rates were closer to 80 cents in the not-so-distant past. We need to set ourselves on a sustainable course.

    At least City Council has decided to hold the line . . . until you get your $2,500 city parking permit next year (kidding . . . I hope)!

  2. Just hope residents understand a lot of cuts have occurred and will occur. This means less police, fire, and social services. This council has made such poor decisions in the past 10 years which has brought our city to the financial crisis it’s in. Hopefully the city will climb out of debt since there’s no reason for debt given the property values and potential tourism related revenue.

    On another side note, since there are no tax increases, Alexandria City employees again are going without a pay raise. They are already drastically paid the least in the area. So please thank a policeman, fireman, or other employee as they accept being brutality underpaid.

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