Property tax hikes, rising assessments put heavy burden on the Port City’s homeowners

Property tax hikes, rising assessments put heavy burden on the Port City’s homeowners

By Bill Coyle, Alexandria
(File Photo) 

To the editor:

It looks like the Alexandria City Council is incapable of holding the line on property tax increases. Assessed values are up and the tax rate is being raised by a half-cent.

It seems modest, but when you combine the two, it adds up to an additional $575 for us. And this comes on top of increases every year since 2008.

Our property tax bill in Alexandria has risen from $6,100 in 2008 to an estimated $8,500 in 2014 — a $2,400 increase. Even with real estate assessments rising relatively slowly, City Hall is raising tax rates swiftly to keep spending on a steep trajectory.

When will this trend cease? How much more can we afford?

The increases seem so cavalier and are made with little thought of their effect on residents, particularly those of us on fixed incomes, a growing segment of the community. And with the construction of new businesses and housing all around us, why isn’t the tax base expanding to give residential homeowners relief? Perhaps the city got overextended during the real estate bubble era with spending on the lavish new T.C. Williams High School, not to mention an overpaid city manager.

We are now paying for those excesses.

The assessed value of our property and our property taxes in the 1990s were very stable, relatively unchanged for 10 years at about $2,000. The 2000s were a different story: values skyrocketed, the nature of Del Ray changed and the real estate bubble grew. The assessed value of our property rose by a factor of two or three.

This is unsustainable for us. Income-wise, we are less able to keep up with the annual property tax increases. We are mostly on a fixed income now. My pension is about two-thirds of what I was making as a federal economist. My wife is working part time and is getting social security.

Each time the city raises our property tax it takes a chunk out of our budget, reducing our flexibility and constraining our ability to make the kinds of investments we should to maintain our home. Is the city indifferent to this?

In our case, property taxes are very regressive. Our federal and state taxes have dropped commensurate with our lower household income. Property taxes, however, keep rising regardless of our income.

City councilors must pay better attention to how their budgetary decisions affect an important segment of the community.