By Carla Branch and James Cullum
On Tuesday night, the Alexandria City Council decided to request no changes to City Council and School Board elections; named the new DASH facility after William Hurd; agreed to allow the City Manager to move forward with street improvements to Seminary Road and Beauregard; received a report on the implementation of the City’s settlement with Mirant and approved the publication of the top 20 delinquent real estate taxpayers.
The top 20 delinquent real estate taxpayers owe as much as $39,638, in the case of 1007 LLC, located at 1007 Franklin Street and as little as $12,456, in the case of 1106 King Street. These delinquent taxes date back to 2008 or before. Council authorized staff to publish the names and amounts on the City’s website and to write off any delinquent taxes of $20 or less.
The City’s new DASH maintenance facility will be named for Bill Hurd. A longtime member of the Alexandria Planning Commission, Herd was also a DASH founder. Council will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony at the new facility on Saturday, Nov. 21, at 8:30 a.m. The facility is located at 3000 Business Center Drive.
Council and School Board Elections
Last year, the Virginia General Assembly approved the City’s request for a charter change to move Council and School Board elections from May to November. In June, Council voted to do so. If Council wishes to make any other changes such as staggering Council terms or moving Council and School Board terms from three to four years, they must once again request a charter change from the General Assembly. On Tuesday night, in a 4-3 vote, Council voted to make no further change in the election process.
“As I said at our last legislative meeting, I do not believe we should send any charter change request to Richmond on a split vote. If we cannot agree unanimously, we should have, at a minimum, a 5-2 vote on any change. Since it is clear that this is not possible, I am going to move that we do nothing. This means that we will hold Council and School Board elections in November, 2012, and three years after that. This gives us time to discuss the matter further and hopefully come to some consensus,” said Vice Mayor Kerry Donley.
Councilman Paul Smedberg seconded Donley’s motion. “Vice Mayor Donley has put forward options that included many of the changes everyone wanted. Because there is no unanimous agreement, his proposals were compromises. Part of the reason that we moved elections from May to November was to increase voter turn-out and because we wanted to consider staggered terms. I am voting to leave things as they are because we can’t agree,” Smedberg said.
Councilman Rob Krupicka and Mayor Bill Euille also voted to maintain the status quo. “I could agree to four-year terms but only if they are staggered, thus keeping the voters involved. Otherwise, it removes us even further from the voters and I would prefer to leave it the way it is,” Krupicka said. “I would also be willing to support a referendum if we can get the General Assembly to give us permission to make that referendum binding.”
Councilwoman Alicia Hughes wants a referendum. “I just want to say for the record that I am going to be bringing this up at an appropriate time. I believe that the voters should decide,” Hughes said. Currently, localities can only put non binding questions on the ballot.
Those who voted against maintaining the status quo were Hughes and Council members Del Pepper and Frank Fannon. Pepper wants to move to four-year terms beginning in 2013 but is opposed to staggered terms.
“Staggered terms don’t end up being better government,” Pepper said. “What really ends up happening is that friends of each other get elected because those who are not up for re-election use their resources to help get their friends re-elected and that is not right.”
Fannon wants to move to four-year terms beginning in November, 2011. “That would put us on the same schedule as the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates. Also, it would take us off the cycle of the presidential elections, which are going to mean long, confusing ballots and long lines at the polls,” he said.
For now, though, the only change in Council and School Board elections is that they will occur in November.
Transportation Improvements at Mark Center
In 2011, the Department of Defense Washington Headquarters Services 6500 employees will move to Mark Center. While the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration decide whether to build direct access from I-395 into the facility, the City must make local road improvements to accommodate the additional traffic. On Tuesday night, Council gave City Manager Jim Hartmann the authority to move forward with these improvements.
“Basically, we are going to build a triple left turn at Seminary and Beauregard and a double left turn from Beauregard into Mark Center,” Donley said. “This is what we need to do while VDOT looks at its options regarding direct access into the WHS site. That could take as long as five years and we just can’t wait for that to happen.”
Transportation and Environmental Services Director Rich Baier explained that the direct access ramp and the local road improvements are parallel processes. “If we want to be ready for these 6500 employees in 2011, we must begin work on the Seminary and Beauregard improvements now.
“By December, we have to let VDOT know our preferred build options for the direct access ramp so that they can be considered as part of the Interchange Justification Review that must be conducted before any decision can be made. Right now, there are seven options under consideration for the access ramp. Any option that is selected must go through an environmental review process before selection. This is going to take a while,” Baier said.
The deadline for making recommendations to VDOT on a preferred direct access ramp option is Dec. 12. “They will take our suggestions after that but if we want serious consideration for our preferences, we need to let them know now,” Baier said.
In July, 2008, the City entered into an agreement with Mirant, the owner of the Potomac River Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant on the waterfront. The City agreed to allow Mirant to merge its five smokestacks into two in return for Mirant’s agreement to invest $34 million in air quality upgrades at the plant. Phase 1 of that agreement is nearing completion. On Tuesday night, Council got a report on what’s happening.
Mirant has agreed to install a fogging system to suppress coal dust particles; to purchase a street sweeper to remove coal dust that escapes when coal is being transferred from trucks to the stacks; to install 30-foot high wind screens around the coal stacks; provide partial funding for the installation of the new ash loader that was previously purchased and received by Mirant and the installation of conveyor drip plans.
The cost for this first phase is $2 million.
“We have worked closely with the Mirant Community Monitoring Group and with other neighbors who may not have been as involved in this process,” said Bill Skrabak, the City’s director of the Division of Environmental Quality. “The biggest issue was the installation of the wind screen but it will reduce the amount of particles that escape from the coal stack by 75 to 80%. Also, it is not adjacent to any residential units.”
Phase 2 will include the purchase of bag houses for the smokestacks, which will collect ash before it can escape. “This will use most of the rest of the funds that Mirant has committed. If there is anything left, we will talk about how it can be spent,” Skrabak told Council.
Phase 1 should be fully implemented in the next few months and the staff has already begun work on Phase 2.
Council unanimously adopted the fiscal year 2011 budget process. At the next legislative meeting on Nov. 24, they will give Hartmann guidance on budget cuts and targets they wish him to meet in preparing his proposed operating and capital budget.
WHEREAS, the Alexandria City Council wishes to establish specific policies to guide upcoming budget deliberations to ensure responsible actions with current economic resources; and
WHEREAS, resolutions No. 2088,2150,2166, and 2256 previously adopted by City Council have now expired; and
WHEREAS, City Council wishes to establish a budget process that is responsive to the economic times in which we live and that provides the Council and community with clear information about the trade-offs between revenues and services in order to facilitate the creation of the final budget; and
WHEREAS, City Council understands that after four years of program reductions, audits and efficiency efforts, the capacity of the city to do the same work for less money has been essentially eliminated; and
WHEREAS, City Council believes that flexibility is needed for both the preparation and evaluation of expense items as well as with regard to diversifying the sources of revenue available to fund the General Fund Operating Budget; and
WHEREAS, City Council’s deliberations on the budget each and every year reflect a balancing of the needs of the community, with the community’s ability to afford services to meet those needs; and
WHEREAS, the City Council desires to provide the core services expected of a municipal government and to continue to provide quality services and facilities for the residents and businesses of Alexandria, but understands that economic reality will require stark trade-offs between services and revenues; and
WHEREAS, over the last ten years, residential real estate taxes have borne an increasing share of the burden of paying for City and School services both because of the earlier run-up in residential home value and development and most recently because of the decline of commercial property values; and
WHEREAS, the City Council is committed to managing the growth of City General Fund operating and capital expenditures in order to properly balance residential real estate taxes; and
WHEREAS, the City Council is committed to assisting Alexandria City Public Schools improve student performance, decrease drop-out rates and in achieving its mission and being among the best in Northern Virginia; and
WHEREAS, the City-Council understands that delayed infrastructure maintenance threatens the health and safety of the community as well as its long-term economic prosperity; and
WHEREAS, the City Council is committed to maintaining a fair, reasonable and competitive compensation plan for City and School employees; and
WHEREAS, the City Council is committed to continuously improving City government effectiveness and efficiency, and expects the City Manager and City staff to continue its focus on managing for results, sharing services with the Alexandria City Public Schools, and developing clear accountable metrics for all city programs and services; and
WHEREAS, the City Council is committed to maintaining its top AAA/Aaa credit
WHEREAS, the City Council desires to achieve the vision and strategic goals, objectives and initiatives as outlined in the City Council’s Strategic Plan; and
WHEREAS, sufficient time for the budget process is necessary for the City Council and the community to deliberate on the various issues raised given the budget’s complexity and importance;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Council of the City of Alexandria,Virginia, that the Council shall, for the purposes of consideration of the Budget for the City of Alexandria, adopt this resolution and adhere to the following rules of procedure: Section (a) The Timing of the Setting of Budget Guidance by City Council and the City Manager’s Budget Submission to City Council (1) That the City Manager shall plan and prepare the proposed Operating Budget and proposed six-year Capital Improvement Program and that such preparations shall include, but not be limited to, requests for City departments to identify efficiencies, low priority programs not crucial to achieving City Council strategic goals, objectives, and initiatives, potential discretionary supplemental increases crucial to achieving City Council’s strategic goals, objectives, and initiatives, and potential City-wide process changes that would be beneficial to City operations and to the public.
(2) That the City Manager shall present to City Council in time for the fall Council Retreat a preliminary forecast and outlook for
“¢ (a) revenues (including the outlook for real estate assessments)
“¢ (b) expenditures necessary to maintain appropriate services and policies (including in the City Manager’s forecast of cash capital and debt service costs related to the most recently approved Capital Improvement Program and estimates of the cost of any appropriate market rate adjustment for City and School staff)
“¢ (c) the outlook for possible additional requests for City operating needs in the upcoming fiscal year and future capital needs in the upcoming fiscal year and succeeding 5 to 10 fiscal years,
“¢ (d) the outlook for possible budget reductions and increases in fees, fines and charges for services, and
“¢ (e) the outlook for Federal and State grants and the costs of meeting unfunded Federal and State mandates, both current mandates and projected new mandates.
(3) That the Alexandria City School System shall separately present to City Council, but in a format coordinated with the City Manager, its preliminary forecast and outlook for :
“¢ (a) expenditures necessary to maintain appropriate services and policies
“¢ (b) the outlook for additional requests for Schools operating in the upcoming fiscal year and capital needs through the upcoming fiscal year and the succeeding 5 to 10 years,
“¢ (c) the outlook for possible budget reductions and increases in fees, fines and charges for services, and
“¢ (d) the outlook for Federal and State grants, and the costs of meeting unfunded Federal and State mandates, both current mandates and projected new mandates.
(4) That as part of its fall Retreat, City Council will consider this information and any other relevant information available to it at that time from the efforts described above, including resident input to be provided by a public hearing on the upcoming budget to be conducted prior to City Council’s fall Retreat.
(5) That City Council shall, as a result of information available to it at the Retreat, direct that the City Manager prepare a budget resolution to be adopted by City Council to guide the preparation of the upcoming Operating Budget and next Capital Improvement Program.
(6) That City Council plans to adopt such a budget resolution during the month of November for the next fiscal year.
(7) That the City Manager shall submit a proposed Operating Budget and Capital Improvement Program to the City Council no later than the first legislative meeting of Council in February, prior to the upcoming fiscal year. Such budget shall meet any guidance for General Fund revenues and expenditures established by City Council.
(8) That the Board of the Alexandria City Public Schools is requested to approve an Operating Budget and Capital Improvement Program no later than the week of the first legislative meeting of the Council in February, prior to the upcoming fiscal year. Such budget, if it shall exceed or otherwise not comply with the guidance provided by City Council, shall clearly identify what operating programs and activities would be funded, if additional funding were provided above that guidance, and the reasons therefore.
(9) That the Council shall hold a budget public hearing on the City Manager’s proposed budget in the month following the budget submission by the City Manager and may hold an additional public meeting on the budget, if Council deems it necessary, in April, in addition to any effective tax-rate public hearing needing to be held prior to budget adoption.
(10) That the council requests that staff create a way for residents and organizations to submit written budget comments to the Council in lieu of or in addition to participation in public meetings.
(11) That City Council shall consider these recommendations and endeavor to enact an Operating Budget and Capital Improvement Program that balances the needs of the community with the community’s ability to afford services to meet those needs.
Section (b) Proposed Budget for the City of Alexandria -
“¢ (1) For purposes of this resolution, the proposed budget of revenue rates and expenditure levels for the fiscal year shall be that proposed by the City Manager.
“¢ (2) For purposes of this resolution, the Chief Financial Officer shall provide revenue and/or expenditure projections for any motion or amendment that could affect the proposed budget specified in Section (b) (1). Section (c) Maximum Expenditure Levels May Not Exceed Sum of Projected Revenue and Appropriation from Fund Balance in Proposed Budget. (1) It shall not be in order in the Alexandria City Council to consider any motion or amendment to the proposed budget of the City of Alexandria if:
(i) there has not been a budget memo requested that relates to the specific item or a Council discussion of the proposal during a budget work-session or public hearing and
(ii) such motion or amendment would have the effect of increasing any specific budget expenditures above the level of such expenditures contained in the proposed budget specified in Section (b) of this resolution, or would have the effect of reducing any specific revenues below the level contained in the proposed budget specified in Section (b) of this resolution, unless such motion or amendment makes at least an equivalent reduction in other specific budget outlays, identifies an equivalent increase in other specific revenues, or an equivalent combination thereof, and
(iii) such motion or amendment is not provided in writing electronically or in hard copy to all members of Council and the City Manager or Chief Financial Officer at least 7 days before the first budget work session to consider such motions or amendments (the preliminary add-delete work session), or discussed at the preliminary add-delete work session to be considered at the final add-delete work session.
(2) In the Alexandria City Council, any appropriation from the Fund Balance or any like account beyond that proposed in the Manager’s proposed budget shall require an affirmative vote of five Council Members.
(3) In the event that the City Manager recommends final revenue technical adjustments that result in a net increase or net decrease from the revenue estimates specified in section (b) of this resolution, the net change in the revenue estimate shall be reflected as a change in the proposed appropriation from the Fund Balance. As specified in Section c (2), any appropriation from the Fund Balance beyond that proposed in the Manager’s proposed budget, including the net effect of final revenue adjustments, shall require an affirmative vote of five Council Members.
Section (d) Expiration — The provisions of this resolution shall expire with the expiration of the term of this City Council