MY VIEW/Christine Michaels – Thanks for keeping taxes low


The Alexandria Chamber of Commerce commends the efforts of the City Manager City Staff and the City Council for their efforts to keep tax rates low for Alexandrians.
Holding the budget increase to less than 5 percent while still funding important initiatives such as economic development is testimony to their commitment to the City’s present needs and future objectives.

In particular we applaud the City for keeping the commercial property real estate tax rate at the same rate as that of the residential property tax, which we concur will serve as an economic stimulus in times of an overall economic downturn.
By being as much as 15% to 22% lower in taxes than surrounding jurisdictions, business retention and recruitment will surely benefit from Alexandria’s  sound investment in the City’s economic sustainability.

The budget supports programs such as the new King Street trolley,  a new regional marketing initiative, additional funding for the Small Business Development Center, land use planning as well as transportation and parking planning. We also applaud the Managing for Results Initiative to reward performance of City employees, and the City’s consideration of both impact and return on investment when evaluating programs and services.

The loss of $16 million in Northern Virginia Transportation Authority funding to support City projects presented the City with an enormous challenge in FY 2009 ultimately resulting in an increase in the restaurant meals tax and in the hotel occupancy tax from 5.5% to 6.5% which while not desirable may have been the City’s “necessary evil” to achieve an overall stable tax rate. 
It will be important for the City to monitor comparable tax rates in neighboring jurisdictions to ensure that it does not over-tax this industry, thereby creating a future competitive disadvantage for Alexandria’s hotels and restaurants.

In times of challenge, leaders must identify bold opportunities.  This is Alexandria’s opportunity to re-establish itself as a thriving commercial center for not just tourism, but for retail, office, financial and educational institutions. 
Standing alone in opposition to the commercial add-on tax, if marketed properly, will attract new business to our City.
In turn, this will, build the economic base of the City, increase commercial uses and taxes proportionately to residential and provide future funding for enhanced City services that benefit all of the City’s constituencies.

Christine Michaels President & CEO Alexandria Chamber of Commerce