Residents and city workers speaking at a marathon public hearing Monday turned a usually subdued City Hall into a stage for fervent disagreement (and less often, agreement) with the city manager’s proposed spending plan.
Police officers, firefighters and other public employees dominated the four-hour conversation, asking the city council to think twice about requiring an additional 1 percent contribution to their pensions.
Workers who risk their lives for a living had trouble reconciling the request with the fact that Alexandria has a budget surplus.
“The bottom line is that the city has been balancing the budget on the backs of city employees for too long,” said firefighter David DiNardo, who heads the local union.
With increased health care contributions and no cost of living increases, speakers said the additional 1 percent would disrupt a delicate balance to most of the public workforce, despite merit-based raises returning to the city’s budget.
“Part of my balance is wondering if I should pay my car insurance. I need my car insurance because I got to have my job to keep my place. Or should I get something to eat? I need my food so that I can have strength to go to work and drive my car,” said Anthony Maze, an employee with the solid waste department. “If this one itty bitty percent clicks through, it upsets my balance and makes me homeless. A working, homeless, human being.”
Other significant talking points included support for school funding, social services and enhancements to Fort Ward Park. Most speakers abhorred the commercial add-on tax, but two supported it.