Education, transportation prioritized in FY2019 capital improvement program

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By Alexa Epitropoulos | aepitropoulos@alextimes.com

City Manager Mark Jinks’ proposed capital improvement program calls
for $2.142 billion between fiscal years 2019 and 2028, with $194.8 million proposed for the FY2019 CIP.

The largest of the proposed FY19’s CIP expenditures — after the 23 percent devoted to reserved bond capacity and cash capital for city and school facilities — is the 19 percent earmarked for transportation and the 17 percent dedicated to Alexandria City Public Schools. Outfalls and stormwater management collectively account for another 17 percent of the proposed sum. The majority of the $37.4 million proposed for transportation would go toward payments to WMATA’s CIP.

A total of $29.7 million would go toward WMATA, while $5.3 million would go toward street reconstruction and resurfacing and $4 million would fund replacing DASH buses with clean diesel models. The $29.9 million dedicated to sanitary sewers would mainly go to beginning work on the four outfalls that the commonwealth mandated to be fixed
by 2025. That $25 million total, however, relies on $12 million in state funding for the fiscal year. The $3.9 million called for in stormwater management would be
used for restoration work at Lucky Run Stream, totaling $1.3 million, and $400,000 would be used to continue stream and channel maintenance projects.

The CIP also calls for $11.6 million for city information technology plans,
including a second payment of $5 million toward the $10 million municipal fiber broadband project, $2.5 million in public safety systems, $700,000 to get the
city’s court records system back online and $2.1 million to maintain the city’s IT infrastructure.

Expenditures in the FY2019 CIP budget (Photo courtesy City of Alexandria)

Another $10.2 million in community development is earmarked, including $5.8 million for implementing the waterfront small area plan and $1.3 million for work and studies for Old Town North, Eisenhower East and Landmark Mall.

This year marks the first time Jinks has proposed fully funding ACPS’ operating budget and CIP. Interim ACPS Superintendent Dr. Lois Berlin’s prospective budget called for $474.7 million over the next decade and $68.3 million for FY19. Of that $68.3 million, $33.2 million is direct funding and $35.15 is set aside for bond capacity and cash capital, which consists of $30 million for land acquisition and $5.15 million for
new high school planning and design.

Berlin said a number of factors resulted in the city manager’s ultimate budget.

“We’ve been working together since I arrived last July and we’ve talked a lot back and forth. I think he just thought I was putting out a responsible budget. The added advantage that the economic forecast was brighter this year certainly came together for a perfect storm,” Berlin said.

Berlin has been working on creating ACPS’ operating and CIP budgets since
she started in July. She said the budget process always begins with staff and faculty costs, which account for 88 percent of the schools’ budget, and then identifying major needs. This year, major needs included the new Ferdinand Day Elementary School on Beauregard Street, the expansion of Patrick Henry Elementary School and new K-5 textbooks.

“There’s a lot of discussion, a lot of going back and forth, justifying your ask as you talk to different departments, different schools,” Berlin said. “One of the things we did straight from the get go was, we knew this could very well be a very tight budget year, so at the central office level, we had every department cut five percent of their non-personnel budgets with the exception of facilities. We knew that would be too difficult for facilities to do given the fact we’re opening a new school.”

Berlin said, when piecing together the CIP, the biggest challenges surrounded
capacity with ACPS’ growing enrollment and aging facilities. That’s where the $30 million for land acquisition and the $5.15 million for high school planning come in – something that was recommended by the joint city-schools task force, which recently made its recommendations to city council.

“One of the bigger differences for us in this particular CIP and in the recommendation of the task force was they specifically included funding for property and land acquisition and that wasn’t in the mix before,” Berlin said. “We can say we need another elementary school, but we need to find a place to put it, property like Ferdinand Day Elementary School, that we can convert to an elementary school.
One of the game changers for this particular CIP is having that money there.”

On the revenue side, the city is expecting $194.8 million, with nearly half of that –

The projected revenue for the FY2019 CIP (Photo courtesy City of Alexandria)

$90.3 million – in unrestricted general obligation bonds. Other projected income includes a $37 million general fund cash capital transfer, $15.1 million in general obligation bonds for sanitation, $6.3 million in state and federal grants, $5.3 million from the North Virginia Transportation Authority, $3.7 million in general obligation bonds for stormwater, $2.1 million in stormwater utility fees, $1.8 million apiece in private capital contributions and sanitary sewer fees and $1.7 million from Comcast.

Overall, 56 percent of the FY19 CIP budget is from borrowing and 44 percent is from cash sources. Some room was made in the budget by the city refinancing $113 million of its outstanding bonds to lower interest rates as a result of the new bonds being rated AAA/Aaa, a development that was announced last September. The refinancing saved $10.6 million for the life of the bonds and $1.5 million for fiscal years 2019 and 2020. The interest rates are fixed throughout the life of the bonds, city spokesman Craig Fifer said. That resulted in the city’s proposed general fund expenditures for debt service going down 1.2 percent for FY19.

City council will vote on the proposed operating and capital improvement program budgets on May 3.

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