Economic pains felt on the street

Economic pains felt on the street

At the Prevention for Blindness thrift store on King Street, the manager, Cookie Balcha, is seeing many faces of destitute resulting from high house payments and unemployment some of the main culprits in this nations economic slump.

After the last eviction notice, they leave all their belongings behind, she said.

The action at the thrift store is not a positive sign for their donations either. People are really holding on to their stuff, Balcha said last Friday, as she helped a customer find blankets and sheets. It could happen to me tomorrow, she added.

Across King Street at the Twig Thrift Store, Lauri Ploch has seen an increase in sales, but couldnt attribute it to family incomes on the decline. She does attribute it to people being thrifty and tightening their belts though. We have had an increase in traffic, Ploch said.

At Twig, they do accept vouchers from the Christ Church and St. Pauls Episcopal Church but dont have the statistics whether the number of vouchers are up this year. At the same time, Debbie Homburger reached in the drawer, holding a handful of the yellow slips.

The vouchers at Christ Church are distributed by the Lazarus Ministry, and are available to city residents only on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 9 a.m. Participants need to bring a photo identification and a copy of any bills, disconnect notices or eviction notices that are the target of assistance. This assistance can be applied to utility bills, rent, prescriptions, and clothing. Recipients can also get five items of food per visit, and one bus token. They do not assist with overnight accommodations or phone bills.

At the same time, the slump in real estate sales is hitting on all levels, including the city budget where 55 percent of revenue comes from real estate taxes.

According to Bruce Johnson, the director in the City of Alexandria’s Office of Management and Budget, 2008 revenue estimates are down by about $2 million, and the projection for 2009 is down another $4.59 million. Personal property tax fell by $1.3 million in 2008 and local sales tax went from $25 million in 2007 to $24.6 million in 2008.

In 2009, personal property taxes are expected to fall another $1.25 million, and the state aid to local governments is expected to be on the decline by about $1.1 million.

On May 1, a soft freeze, on hiring was enacted for the city. The city manager is reviewing vacancies, and permission is required to fill any vacant positions in the city government. We have a mechanism in place in case the real estate starts to fall quickly, Johnson said.

Although the citys budget may cause belt tightening all around, it may cause some projects to be put on hold as well. Were waiting to see, if it will effect the plans for Potomac Yards and Landmark. Will they have the cash to renovate that mall? Johnson rhetorically asked.