Rashad Young’s first budget proposal as Alexandria city manager received plenty of praise and a few question marks from members of City Council on Tuesday night.
Council was particularly pleased by the proposed creation of a new office to facilitate the implementation of high priority capital projects. The office would oversee the recently adopted Waterfront Plan, Potomac Yard and any potential redevelopment of Landmark Mall.
The office would be created by transferring a little more than $300,000 from vacant positions in other departments. Two positions would be created by the reallocation of existing posts.
“This moves us from more time planning to more time doing,” Councilman Rob Krupicka said.
In their budget guidance, council asked Young to look into consolidating and restructuring offices in an effort to maintain the quality of core services like education, public safety, infrastructure maintenance and transportation.
The proposal includes the elimination of 27 full-time and part-time positions in the city, but only eight of those positions are currently filled. Those eight employees won’t necessarily lose their jobs, either. Young said there are potential placement opportunities.
Beautification efforts on King Street and economic development measures both receive funding decreases in Young’s proposal. It also calls for the closure of Ewald Pool and reduced staffing at Fort Ward on weekends. The city’s birthday celebration will also potentially be scaled back and rodent abatement funding will be cut.
“We have more rats in this city than people,” Mayor Bill Euille said, adding that a $50,000 reduction in abatement funding was something that would be addressed as council goes over the proposal during a serious of work sessions in months ahead.
The budget is scheduled adoption on May 7.
“This [budget] gives us some good working pieces,” Councilman Frank Fannon said. “Council can now go through and fine tune.”
Overall expenditures increase by $18.7 million in the proposal over last year’s adopted budget. It provides an additional $5.8 million for public schools, exceeding the amount requested by Superintendent Morton Sherman, and an additional $5.6 million for the police department, fire department, sheriff’s office and emergency communications department.
Young said the budget proposal includes $6.8 million in expenditure reductions and $1.4 million in new initiatives like the implementation office.
Other new initiatives include the recruitment of fire fighters to prepare for a new station on Eisenhower Avenue, an increased investment in tourism advertising and the creation of a new emergency planner position in the Health Department.
“The difficulty with this budget was really about the timing because I didn’t get [to Alexandria] until Dec. 16,” said Young, who moved to the city from Greensboro, N.C.
On Tuesday, Krupicka offered several pointed initiatives that he’d like to pursue during budget discussions. He said he would like to discuss finding new revenue sources to support a 10-year plan to improve the city’s parks and open spaces. He also plans on proposing a resolution that will open 4-year-old Pre-K to all Alexandria families.
Krupicka, who is not running for reelection, would also like to find a way to raise the salaries for council members and their aides. He would also like to create the option for council members to have a full-time aide.
“At $27,500, Council members are paid less than elected officials in most every other major government in the region,” Krupicka wrote in a memo to other council members. “And that salary has not changed for more than nine years. I believe the idea of a part-time Council should be maintained. A part-time Council helps ensure Council members have day jobs that expose them to the same realities of life that residents face. But the current salaries are far less than part-time, especially in a city where the median income is over $100,000 and the cost of living is increasing.”
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