Live Blogging Alexandria City Council Budget Worksession

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City Hall in Alexandria, VA
(Image via MattDailey on Flickr)

Fun starts @ 6:30 PM. Folks from the budget office are updating City Council on budget items and each Council member has submitted their budget. This work session is an attempt to get the seven (7) budgets (one from each council member) into one. This is the first add/delete. Photos from tonight’s work session to be posted later.

11:30 PM
Meeting adjourns.

11:24 PM
Council goes back to the top of the list after the initial run through of the adds/deletes. Right now on the spreadsheet, council is looking at a $1.7M surplus without elderly tax relief or ACPS added in to the mix. Mayor Euille asks staff to add in $1M for elderly tax relief and they re-look at the numbers. Council asks staff to add in $1.3M of the $2.4M requested by the schools. Mr. Lovain says elderly tax relief needs to be trimmed and schools need to be fully funded. Council looking at latest budget picture.

11:12 PM
Council reviewing Planning & Zoning cuts. Many members support cuts in this department. P & Z spending has risen dramatically since 2000. P & Z Director Hamer argues passionately against these cuts.

11:07 PM
City Council going through ‘Livable, Green’ section of the budget. Many members support the initiatives listed in this section of the budget.

10:52 PM
City CIO addresses IT challenges and passionately addresses the members on restoring IT cuts. City playing catchup when it comes to IT and mobile device strategy.

10:44 PM
Civic Engagement. Councilman Lovain says citizens need to be taught ‘What’s Next’ principles while Mayor Euille notes that this May be something for the IT and/or communication department to improve upon.

10:41 PM
City Hall security guard position. Discussion ensues.

10:36 PM
Law Library. All members support restoration of cut.

10:22 PM
Fire Marshal reduction. Looks like this may be reduced. Not uncommon. 3 members support restoring position cuts. Discussion ensues.

10:18 PM
Retaining Engine 204 at Station 204. All members support this right now. At least until OPA study is done. Councilman Wilson uneasy about deciding where fire stations should go. Discussion ensues. Mayor Euille says members, as policy makers, have the responsibility to make these decisions. Final decision on 204 will come next Monday. Right now, looks like all members support keeping the fire engine where it is. Councilman Smedberg notes there has been some disinformation going around about 204.Councilman Wilson says that City will look to reapply for SAFER grant to alleviate the cost of keeping both engines.

10:16 PM
Domestic violence position in APD. 4 members support this right now. Councilman Lovain argues strongly for this restoration and says should be part of arrangement between DCHS and APD.

10:07 PM
Pay supplement for General District Court employees and Juvenile District Court employees. Only 2 members support General District Court while 5 support Juvenile District Court pay supplement. Discussion ensues. Members say state should be paying obligation to these employees. Mayor Euille says City can’t do one without the other.

10:03 PM
Waterfront maintenance. Vice Mayor Silberberg says funding should be restored so that the waterfront area can remain pristine. She is the only one that supports this right now. She was the only member to vote against the current waterfront plan.

9:59 PM
Street light assessments. Mayor Euille talks about Dominion Power’s failure to provide adequate service to the street lights and meetings that he has had. Discussion ensues. T & ES Director addresses the Council on the 12,000 street lights and the dynamic between the City and Dominion Virginia Power. Councilman Wilson addresses the restoration of the funding.

9:52 PM
Marketing fund. Councilman Smedberg argues strongly in favor of restoring $50K cut to marketing fund. Discussion ensues. Only Smedberg for this right now. Sounds like some minds may have changed in this discussion. Vice Mayor Silberberg says she strongly supports Marketing fund. She has a $0 amount to restore cut. Says effort may be duplicated. Discussion ensues. Talks about libraries. Says she can’t support Marketing fund without restoring funding to library book collection.

9:51 PM
Recycling program. 5 of the members are for restoring this cut.

9:41 PM
Business expansion program. Councilman Chapman looking at ways to help business expand such as a incubator program. Discussion ensues. Only Chapman is for this right now. And one wonders why City is at a 73/27 split in residential to commercial property tax base? AEDP staff addresses Council on this expansion program. Councilman Smedberg says Marketing fund better choice.

9:39 PM
Mayor Euille returns.

9:37 PM
Mayor Euille steps out to take A call. Vice mayor Silberberg in charge of the meeting. Many members and staff chewing down on Oreos and other snacks. Not very health conscious eh?

9:36 PM
Smoking cessation. This goes back to cigarette tax increases discussed earlier. Councilman Smedberg says these programs takes years to any immeasurable impact. Is this true?

9:32 PM
Senior taxi service. Many of the members are in favor of restoring this funding. Must look up TIP.

9:28 PM
Restoring 26 Parks and Recreation positions. Councilman chapman argues strongly in support of these positions especially for after school activities. Councilman Wilson says it was a change in how services are provided by Parks & Rec. Staff addresses the request.

9:27 PM
Mayor Euille returns.

9:26 PM
Library book collection position. Vice Mayor Silberberg advocates strongly in support of keeping position. She is only one supporting this right now.

9:22 PM
Have noticed Councilman Lovain is one of the only members to not have taken many notes on tonight’s meeting. Is his mind made up on many of the budget issues? Mayor Euille steps out to take a call. Vice Mayor Silberberg takes over meeting.

9:15 PM
Restoring cuts to jobs link program, only a couple of members are for this right now, Councilwoman Pepper says members should look at budget memo they received tonight about this cut. Councilwoman Pepper is very passionate about the program. Discussion ensues. Program position being cut deals with seniors. Staff gives Council an overall view how the Jobslink program is working and the ROI it is providing to the community.

9:02 PM
INOVA Alexandria 5.5% reduction. Only 2 members support this. Councilman Smedberg says INOVA should take a look at strategic support they receive from other services/agencies. Discussion ensues around indigent and long term coordinated care. Councilman Wilson says for the amount of money Council gives INOVA, there should be some agreement.

8:58 PM
Cut to fund for Human Services (DCHS). Most members are in favor of this. Councilman Wilson notes that if DCHS is restored, Council should restore all. Councilman Wilson says he and councilman Smedberg have pushed for reforms on these funds.

8:49 PM
Restoring CCNA $10K cut. Discussion ensues.

8:44 PM
Council looking to restore funding to regional dental services provided. 3 members in favor of this. Discussion ensues. Mayor Euille notes several Dentists in Alexandria have written in to support the program.

8:42 PM
Restoring a portion of ANSI (Alexandria Neighborhood Health Services)

8:38 PM
Councilman Lovain notes the challenges that ACPS faces and heartily encourages fellow Council members to support the schools. ACPS School Board Chair thanks Council for recognizing the value of education.

8:28 PM
School Board chair Karen Graf addresses the Council on the budget numbers. Dr. Cawley, ACPS Superintendent addresses City Council on ACPS budget numbers. Discussion ensues on personnel benefits. Dr. Cawley says support staff looking at 1% increase as well as some increases for teachers. Mayor Euille asks how ACPS would fare w/o $1M increase.

8:25 PM
Schools. ACPS operating funds. Proposed budget looks at $2.4 Million less than what was requested. Most members want operating fund increased. Some members want $1M increase over $190.6 request in budget. Discussion ensues on ACPS budget item.

8:20 PM
Restoring retiree insurance payments. Councilman Smedberg says this is smart. Discussion ensues on scalability of restoring this. Budget staff says City could cap the amount.

8:16 PM
Council looking at reducing IT Project Manager staff. Discussion ensues on IT enhancements. Council looking toward more contractor support.

8:12 PM
EXPENDITURES baby!

8:08 PM
Warwick Pool enters the discussion on capital improvements. Discussion centers on when CIP work would be done at Warwick. Councilman Smedberg says that discussion should happen about all of the pools in the City.

7:58 PM
Mayor Euille asks staff if programs are doing good for the kids. Staff responds that each kid requires tax support and fee support. Councilman Wilson notes that there is very high demand for these programs. Discussion ensues on implementation of policy. Councilman Smedberg notes that recent fee increases have not affected participation.

7:54 PM
Raising Recreation & Parks fees. Affects basketball, football, and after-school programs (Out of school program). Some members are for this. About implementing previous policy Council adopted. Discussion ensued.

7:51 PM
Additional red light cameras. Most members have this on their worksheets. Discussion centers on more than one camera. Council in favor of adding three (3) cameras.

7:46 PM
Residential refuse collection fee. Most members in favor raising this by $1. Councilman Smedberg proposes raising that to $9 (alternative option). Vice Mayor Silberberg would like to see high school students, Boy Scouts, etc, more involved in the composting/recycling program in order to lower cost to City.

7:45 PM
Parking meter hours. Only one member, Del Pepper, has proposed this. Looks like parking meter hours are safe from extension for now.

7:42 PM
Councilman Smedberg queries City Manager on automation of City garages. Would be big capital investment but, would be money maker for the city. City Manager notes that all that is missing is policy direction from members.

7:36 PM
Members discuss raising parking garage fees from $2.50 to $2.55 and hour and $10.20 for the whole day (Item 24). Smedberg, Wilson, Chapman, And Mayor Euille have this on their worksheet. Members discuss raising rates post-5:00 PM in City garages. Members seem in favor of doubling the rate post-5:00 PM to $5 max from $4 max. Members seem in favor of this instead of original proposal.

7:28 PM
Councilman Smedberg notes in line 20 about raising fees/taxes on people who do not register their vehicle correctly. He is the only one that has proposed this. Councilman Wilson and Mayor Euille query staff. Councilman Smedberg says he is removing his request. Discussion centers on enforcement.

7:26 PM
Councilman Wilson notes that if members raise the cigarette tax, Council should fund smoking cessation programs as this is a regressive tax and is a tax on the poor. Mr. Wilson and Mr. Chapman are only ones that have not proposed raising taxes in this area.

7:22 PM
Commercial taxes. Councilman Wilson and other members including the Mayor uneasy about raising utility taxes. Discussion ensues on taxing small business in Alexandria. Members discuss cigarette tax. NOTE: Most members have put numbers to increase these taxes in all of these areas.

7:18 PM
Mayor Euille brings calm to the discussion and notes there is consensus to restoring senior tax relief in the FY 2015 budget.

7:14 PM
Councilman Wilson queries staff on if net value of was and could be considered. Staff, including City Manager and City Attorney, says net value could not be considered. Councilman Wilson says he is not convinced senior homeowners who have large asset homes should be given tax relief. 155 homes owned by seniors have value over $500K in Alexandria. Del Pepper says seniors living like that are ‘house poor’.

7:13 PM
Councilman Chapman says both programs are needed and should be funded.

7:12 PM
Vice Mayor Silberberg and Councilman Smedberg go back and forth on the senior tax relief issue. Got very heated at stages.

7:08 PM
Mayor Euille notes Council has options and flexibility in all aspects of the FY 2015 budget. Mayor Euille also notes that net value of home should not be part of the senior tax relief. Councilman Smedberg would like to see some requirements for folks in this program so that they do not move here and immediately sign up for a program with public dollars.

7:06 PM
Councilman Smedberg is not happy with fellow Council members attacking the City Manager at this stage of the budget process.

6:58 PM
Councilman Wilson notes that budget memo 9 states that seniors who live in million-dollar homes are eligible for tax relief and would like to redirect that to rent relief. Loud back and forth between Del and Justin here. Vice Mayor Silberberg is very uneasy with Councilman Wilson, Councilman Smedberg, and Councilman Lovain trying to balance the budget ‘on the backs of our seniors’.

6:56 PM
Councilman Lovain notes the line 12 proposal is also geared toward people who rent. Del is STILL really pissed about this.

6:53 PM
Councilwoman Del Pepper VERY agitated about City Manager’s proposed budget that makes major change to senior policy.

6:51 PM
Councilman Smedberg leads discussion on line 12 on senior tax relief and the change of asset class. Vice Mayor Silberberg notes Alexandria’s senior community is growing.

6:48 PM
City Manager Young discusses that any questions, comments, etc that are left open tonight can be resolved by Monday night (4/28).

6:46 PM
Councilman Justin Wilson has a question on process.

6:44 PM
City staff says ‘Real Estate tax relief’ is in the budge. If taxes are going up, how is that tax relief?
6:42 PM
Staff from the City Manager’s office going over the budget line by line.

6:36 PM
FULL House tonight. Boy is it hot in here. Staff looking at problem. Mayor Euille in a tie tonight. Mayor Euille makes opening remarks. mayor Euille says FY 2015 is a ‘tough budget year’.

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[…] in the City of Alexandria.  Yet now, the City of Alexandria is looking at adding as many as three (3) new red light cameras in the FY 2015 budget. In the words of P Diddy, ‘It’s All About The Benjamin’s […]