Residents of Alexandria who pay property taxes should pay close attention to the primary election on June 12. The two candidates for mayor, Mayor Allison Silberberg and her challenger, Vice Mayor Justin Wilson, have very different approaches to taxation.
Mr. Wilson was responsible last year for adding three cents per hundred dollars of valuation on top of increases requested by the city manager. Unusually, his additional tax had no specific purpose but was to be recommended by a “Blue Ribbon Committee” of citizens, assisted by $100,000 in consultants. That increase will cost many homeowners several hundred dollars over their 2017 taxes. Moreover, the 2018 property tax amount would be added to the new rainwater fee that can add up to another $233 for homeowners. Last year Mr. Wilson also was behind taxing Old Town commercial properties an additional 10 cents of valuation for a proposed “Business Investment District” or BID.
Mayor Silberberg opposed the Wilson’s tax increase believing that the city manager’s budget was adequate to meet Alexandria’s needs. Council passed it over her objections. She opposed the BID unless a survey of merchants and property owners showed that a majority approved it. The proposal subsequently was withdrawn.
In his recent newsletters Mr. Wilson has claimed that the city has $500 million of needed but unfunded capital investment — in addition to the $2 billion of investment in the city manager’s proposed Capital Improvement Program for the next decade. If Mr. Wilson is elected mayor we can expect him quickly to push for raising that $500 million. How? With the city’s bonding authority already stretched, he would be obliged to propose yet another hefty increase to property taxes for 2019 and beyond.
Mayor Silberberg, while seemingly understanding their importance, has taken the approach that infrastructure needs must be carefully scrutinized and prioritized. She has expressed the concern that wholesale hiking of property taxes will force low and middle income residents, many of them elderly on fixed incomes, out of their homes or from rental units as owners pass along tax increases.
Retired as I am and pensioned, her concern is mine, as it should be for many Alexandria residents. Taxes should be a key topic of discussion in approaching the June primary.