City council adopts FY2021 budget

City council adopts FY2021 budget
Alexandria City Hall. (Photo/Missy Schrott)

By Cody Mello-Klein |

City council adopted the fiscal year 2021 operating budget on April 29, after an abridged and highly unconventional budget session due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

City Manager Mark Jinks proposed his revised $753.3 million FY2021 budget on April 7, and it remained largely unchanged when council adopted it on April 29, with no add/delete items from any members of council.

“It’s really a statement by the council as to the uncertainty,” Mayor Justin Wilson told the Times. “… Anything that anybody wanted to add would have had to be weighed against the enormity of what was being cut, and I think most members made the judgement that there was not much to match that right now.”

The FY2021 budget comes in at 5.8 percent lower than Jinks’ original $799.9 million operating budget, which focused on a number of capital projects in the school system and included a 2-cent increase in the real estate tax rate.

The approved operating budget does not include the original tax rate increase. The tax rate remains at $1.13 per $100 of assessed value.

Certain capital improvement projects, such as the first phase of the Waterfront Park flood mitigation plan and the T.C. Williams High School Minnie Howard campus project, had to be deferred to FY2023 in order to account for an estimated $56.4 million revenue shortfall in FY2021. However, the Douglas MacArthur Elementary School rebuild project remains on schedule.

The proposed FY2021 also allocated $1 million to the Alexandria Health Department in order to hire more epidemiology staff.

Due to the constantly changing circumstances of the pandemic, the approved budget could change over the next few months as city council and staff adapt to a dire financial situation, Wilson said.

“As I said when we adopted it, this is the stay-at-home budget, this is the shelter in place budget,” Wilson said. “This is adopting a budget because we need to adopt a budget but an acknowledgement that over the next couple months we’re going to have to tweak things and make decisions about what we ultimately do going forward.”