Your View: Clearing the air on debt policy

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Your View: Clearing the air on debt policy
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By City Councilor Justin M. Wilson (File photo)

To the editor:
One Republican city council candidate recently referred to “debt that continues to escalate at a problematic rate.”

Another Republican city council candidate last week asserted, falsely, that the council had revised its debt policy guidelines downward. And an Independent candidate recently spoke of the city’s “burdensome” debt.

Unfortunately, the recently concluded mayoral primary was dominated by false assertions about Alexandria’s debt.

Reading the letters to the editor, you would suspect that Alexandria is teetering along with Greece, Puerto Rico and Detroit on the edge of a financial abyss.

Those that seek to govern Alexandria would be well served to review the city’s most recent Comprehensive Annual Financial Report prior to disseminating their baseless assertions about the city’s financial state. The report showed this reality: Alexandria has the lowest debt of any jurisdiction in Northern Virginia.

Virginia’s Constitution limits local debt to 10 percent of the assessed value of real estate. Alexandria imposes a far more stringent local limit of 1.6 percent. This year, the capital budget approved by city council came in at 1.31 percent. No other jurisdiction in Northern Virginia reaches a level that low. That’s precisely why Alexandria enjoys membership in an elite class of jurisdictions holding a triple-A bond rating.

Yet we on city council have not been satisfied with the strong fiscal position of the city. It was the current council that proposed and adopted a new “cash capital” funding policy last year to ensure that during difficult budget times, debt is not used as an escape valve to avoid tough choices.

Clearly, doomsday chatter about our city’s financial condition has its political advantages. But it has been good governance, not politics, that has given Alexandria a balance sheet that is the envy of the region.

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