Your Views: City hall is playing games with our money

Your Views: City hall is playing games with our money
Flooding near the Braddock Road Metro Station. (Photo/Pete Prahar)

To the editor:

With all the debate about flooding in Rosemont, Del Ray and elsewhere, the city continues to maintain that their stormwater fee will take care of the problem, particularly if it is doubled. Not that those with flooded basements and gurgling toilets have noticed a difference from the original levy.

But should there even be a stormwater fee? Managing sewer and stormwater systems are basic services of municipal government everywhere, and of a public works department like Transportation and Environmental Services here in Alexandria.

City-imposed fees should be reserved for services provided by city government for which there may be few or no other potential providers, and relatively few users. But we all benefit from stormwater infrastructure and maintenance. They are basic services.

It has become increasingly clear that Alexandria has used new fees for some basic services to mask the overall tax burden and reduce tax rate increases. Yet, the one-two punch of taxes and fees has been profound for homeowners.

Adding together the increases in property tax, meals tax and commonly paid fees, the typical home or condo owner has seen their city payments increase by an average of 4.6% annually over the past decade. That’s three times the rate of inflation.

And for what? Services that few demand, like: collocation of adult housing on school property, a comprehensive bike lane network, faster travel on mostly empty buses and unsafe scooters.

We have also received more frequent flooding of our homes and yards, inadequate school infrastructure, raw sewage in the Potomac, narrowing and slowing of our commuting routes, a recent uptick in the crime rate, threats to our few natural streams and surrounding trees and a massive push for greater density threatening our neighborhoods in a city already in the top 7% nationally in that regard.

So, our elected officials and City Manager Mark Jinks have been more clever than good in managing our money. And the charade continues with the doubling of the stormwater tax. Sorry, “fee.”

What’s next? A “police fee” for a routine call for service to the police department? A “walking fee” for seniors using a city park? A “school fee” for parents with children attending public school?

It could get worse. The city’s dependence on fees as hidden taxes may become even more prevalent as the pandemic’s full effects on city revenue are felt. Fasten your seat belts. The city hall gang that can’t shoot straight is likely to play more games with our money as the city budget season gets rolling early in the new year.

-Bill Rossello, Alexandria