Parks and recreation hit hard in city budget proposal

Parks and recreation hit hard in city budget proposal

By Erich Wagner (File photo)

Nearly 30 city employees could be boxing up their belongings later this year.

City Manager Rashad Young presented his proposal for the city’s $634.8 million operating budget Tuesday night. Despite a nearly 1.6-percent increase in revenues, Young said the city still faces a $35 million shortfall.

A reshuffling that Young said is designed to “align staff to meet user demand” could lead to 17 positions being cut from the Alexandria Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities.

Around 30 filled full-time positions are on the chopping block, along with 38 vacant positions. But Young said staffers affected by the cuts could apply for one of the roughly 35 new positions created under the proposal.

City Councilor Justin Wilson lamented the need to slash the number of city workers.

“Overall the city workforce is now at about the same staffing level as we had 10 years ago,” Wilson said. “We’ve started so many new things in the last decade, but we have to do them with less than what we had 10 years ago.”

While Alexandria City Public Schools is set to receive an additional $5 million out of a total of $10 million in new city spending this year, the funding is well below the $7.4 million requested by interim Superintendent Alvin Crawley.

Although the budget leaves property tax rates flat at $1.038 per $100 of assessed value, new fees like $100 annual registration fees for out-of-state vehicles, $50 daily fees for impounded cars on weekends and extended parking meter hours could hit residents’ wallets. And while property tax rates are the same, Young pointed out that many residents and landowners could see a bigger tax bill because property values have increased since last year.

Elsewhere in the proposal, city retirees would have to pay for their life insurance premiums. It also calls for the elimination of the senior taxi program, a cut that irked City Councilor Tim Lovain.

“These are challenging ideas, and a lot of them are worth discussing,” Lovain said. “But I think that maybe [seniors] are a population we need to pay special attention to.”

One notable funding shift comes in the form of moving $870,000 from the city’s homeownership assistance program to help renters. Other cuts include a $121,000 contribution to the local law library, a $20,000 contribution to the Concerned Citizens Network of Alexandria and a $25,000 contribution to Northern Virginia Family Services.

One area where Young increases spending is infrastructure maintenance. Under the proposed budget, the city will perform 40-miles worth of road and sidewalk maintenance, up from 22 miles last year. But City Councilor Del Pepper said the city should push to make even more repairs.

“Considering there are [560 lane miles in Alexandria], 40 just seems like a drop in the bucket,” she said. “I think we should relook at that. If you just name the street, there’s a serious pothole there; it’s really that bad.”

The first public hearing on the budget is slated for 4 p.m. March 10.