FY2021 budget moves forward with no add/deletes

FY2021 budget moves forward with no add/deletes
Alexandria City Hall. (Photo/Missy Schrott)

By Cody Mello-Klein | cmelloklein@alextimes.com

City council moved forward with City Manager Mark Jinks’ revised FY2021 budget with no add/delete items during Saturday’s public hearing.

The revised $753.3 million FY2021 budget, which includes the deferral of Jinks’ proposed 2-cent real estate tax rate increase, is a significant reduction from the $800 million budget Jinks proposed in February. Due to the tight timeline of the budget cycle, which was disrupted by the COVID-19 crisis, council did not include any add/delete items, a traditional part of the budget process.

“[It’s] a testament to the very extreme circumstances that we are dealing with here now in this budget, frankly without precedent,” Mayor Justin Wilson said.

Several residents spoke during the public hearing for the budget, participating remotely via Zoom. Resident Carolyn Lyle acknowledged that support for public safety and health is most important during this time. However, Lyle but expressed disappointment that the revised budget pulled $110,000 in funding for the establishment of an energy and climate change task force.

“One of the things that is unfortunate about this budget is that there are many things that all seven members of council highly prioritized that are being reduced in this budget,” Wilson said in response. “And that’s one of the frustrating circumstances of this scenario that we are in.”

Alexandria City Public Schools teacher Cristin Reeder said that affordable housing and housing relief programs should not go by the wayside at a time when the city’s most vulnerable residents are even more vulnerable.

“I’ve spent the last few weeks on phone calls with needy families who are at risk of losing absolutely everything,” Reeder said. “… As teachers, we’re practically begging churches and nonprofits to give children’s families a little more, when we don’t feel like we have a lot of support from the government of Alexandria city.”

Reeder noted that the revised budget does not include $1 million in funding that had previously been included for affordable housing; however, Wilson noted that money was allocated for the development of new affordable housing projects.

The city secured about $700,000 in federal funds through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act that will be used for rent relief programs, City Manager Mark Jinks said. The city also expects to receive additional federal funding through another federal care package that targets localities.

The city already anticipated $1.6 million in regularly allocated federal funds for FY2021,

Director of the Office of Housing Helen McIlvaine said. The majority of those funds will go toward the city’s multi-family rental development and home rehab loan programs.

During the public hearing, McIlvaine presented the city’s Action Plan for Housing and Community Development, amended to include a rental assistance program that would be funded by the federal CARES money.

The program will provide rental assistance to residents who are experiencing a loss of income due to the coronavirus and live in city-assisted housing developments or affordable housing units. With nearly $700,000 in federal funds, the Office of Housing could assist about 450 households by covering rental payments of up to $500 a month, McIlvaine said.

With very few public speakers and a significantly altered budget process, the FY2021 budget breezed through Saturday’s 90-minute public hearing untouched on its way to adoption on April 29.