Your View: Officials should focus on infrastructure needs in budget deliberations

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Your View: Officials should focus on infrastructure needs in budget deliberations
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By Steven Bezman, Alexandria (File photo)

To the editor:
I have been a resident and homeowner in the city of Alexandria since 1975. I am currently retired and living on a fixed income with a fairly tight budget. I am sure that many other city residents — single and dual-income families, single-parent families, and retirees — are also on tight budgets.

I understand the city is considering up to a 3-cent per $100 of assessed value increase in the real estate tax rate to fund infrastructure maintenance and improvements. Infrastructure neglect always and inevitably results in crisis. A graphic and tragic example is Metro.

Therefore, I am in favor of increasing real estate taxes if the additional funds are used specifically for infrastructure. For me, the increased assessment on my property likely will mean I will defer or cancel some “nice to have, but not necessary” purchases.

I believe a critical analysis should be conducted of all city budget items to separate them into two categories: “need to have” and “nice to have, but not necessary.”

“Need to have” include important items such as public safety, education, infrastructure, and public health. “Nice to have, but not necessary” is comprised of everything else.

The “nice to have, but not necessary” items should be eliminated or curtailed. Such action will likely engender considerable criticism. As leaders, I trust you to make reasonable and responsible decisions, particularly when positive results from your actions may not be immediately apparent. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority ignored its infrastructure, which directly resulted in deaths and injuries.

Playing infrastructure catch-up is always more expensive than progressive infrastructure maintenance. Had Metro prudently increased its fare structure periodically to maintain its infrastructure, there would have been immediate outcries, but the long term results would have been a safer and more reliable system.

I have studied Metro accident and incident reports, and I doubt that the agency will achieve an adequate level of safety and reliability any time soon. Furthermore, primary safety-related
infrastructure repairs now will be extremely expensive.

I believe the current elected city officials and much of the city staff are dedicated and committed to doing what is best for Alexandria and its residents. I encourage you all to take the actions needed to fulfill that, even if it means some immediate heat. Recall that someone once said, “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.”

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