Initiatives Move Forward Despite Budget Cuts

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Amid an $8 million budget shortfall, the city will dip into its contingent reserve funds, allowing various initiatives to progress through the economic strains being felt around the city, region and country.

Directors of virtually all departments were asked last month to prioritize their budgets and submit them to Council. As the Office of Management and Budget indicated, nearly all budgets throughout the government will be cut, but there are certain areas, like within the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, where spending money in this economy means making money down the road.

The Council allocated $63,000 from the contingent reserve fund to AEDP, financing a study aimed at luring specific industries to Alexandria that may wish to relocate as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure project, the Department of Defense initiative aimed at securing and streamlining military installations.

The Army recently chose Alexandria as a destination for 6,400 jobs as a part of the BRAC initiative. The AEDP received a federal grant to begin the study dubbed the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats but needed more funds to implement its findings.

These targeted marketing plans are whats going to allow us to implement that SWOT analysis, said Stephanie Landram, AEDPs senior vice president. So that absolutely has to be the priority.

The plan includes identifying specific prospects in relevant industries, suggesting incentives to attract industries and assembling a team of ambassadors for tracking contacts and outcomes.

The kind of methods that youre talking about here have been used widely and have a proven track record with proven results, Councilman Tim Lovain said. I think these are the kind of expenditures that are going to save us money by producing more tax revenues than its costing us, which is a little different situation when were talking about these budget decisions.

The AEDP originally expected to receive $125,000, the total cost of the three-phase initiative, but Council awarded them about half in light of the citys current economic stance. The Council will discuss the fate of the rest of the money on its retreat later this month. 

Councils intent to cut costs while mitigating service cuts was palpable. On the same night it invested in the AEDP Council invested somewhat in the citys senior citizens, albeit cautiously amid the economic exhaustion.

Like the AEDP, the Department of Human Services and the Office on Aging and Adult Services expected to receive more money than it actually did for an initiative, this one aimed at assessing senior Alexandrians needs. Originally, the commissions expected to receive 90,000 for the project. Officials left with $10,000 from the contingent reserve fund to complete the first phase of the study. The other $80,000, which would be used to hire a consultant that would assess seniors needs in the city, will be evaluated at the Councils retreat.

As you look at both of these two items the $80,000 and the $10,000 it sounds to me like the $10,000 is relatively urgent to complete a project thats really been underway for some time, and you really just need to bring it to closure, Councilman Rob Krupicka said.

DHS mission is to promote safe, independent and healthy lifestyles for older Alexandrians, particularly those who are low-income or at risk of social isolation or institutionalization by creating a Livable Community and support aging in place, according to a memo. The goal of the project is to assess and identify resources that will create a comprehensive community-wide plan to address those needs and identify gaps in services.

Arlington County performed a similar study with similar goals for more than half the cost, though with about seven dedicated full time employees in addition to nonprofits and volunteers. Alexandrias entities on aging have just 2.5 full time employees, but council members and city staff seemed intent on making it work.

I think the realization is that the city cant do it all, said Debra Collins, assistant city manager for Community and Human Services. And I think thats one of the main impetus is to look at how perhaps we can provide services differently with private-public partnerships. So we really need to think creatively to see who else out there in the city can help us meet those needs.

Lovain wants to see more nonprofit organizations get involved to subsidize the work, saying the staff needs to whittle it down to what we essentially need.

Its an issue about which we can pay [for] now or we can pay [for] later, but the longer we put off this type of study, the longer the strains are going to be on senior services, Councilman Ludwig Gaines said. Obviously we want to do the best we can from a budget standpoint, but we also want to do the best we can for the seniors that are going to be depending on us for the services that they are going to need desperately.

The City Council will discuss a comprehensive list of budget and service cuts at its retreat on October 25.

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