May 02, 2011

Alexandria Transportation Add-on Tax a no-go

The Alexandria City Council approved the city's FY 2012 budget today. The Transportation Add-on tax, discussed often on this blog and in the city's Transportation Commission meetings in the past, was not approved. In its place, City Council approved the equivalent of 2.2 cents of the overall real estate tax rate paid by all property owners be reserved for transportation, with 2 cents of that representing a real increase over FY 2011. It's estimated that this will bring in $13.5 million for FY 2012 and $110 million over a 10 year period. These figures are roughly comparable (within 4%) to what the add-on tax was estimated to bring in.

This situation should not be very surprising. The Alexandria Chamber of Commerce has been very vocal in its opposition to the add-on tax, to the point of running a "Vote No Add-on Tax" campaign and collecting close to 500 signatures in an online petition, dwarfing a similar online petition promoted by tax supporters. One of the complaints often heard amongst the business community against the tax is that it would place an unfair, undue burden on one sector of the community to fund projects that benefit the community as a whole.

This viewpoint was apparently prominent amongst the City Council's deliberations. The property tax they approved for transportation affects ALL property owners, not just commercial property owners like the add-on tax does.

Detailed budget documents are not yet available for viewing online. But given that the property tax dedication to transportation improvements is similar in dollar figures to what was estimated for the add-on tax, there shouldn't be any significant changes to the projects and priorities proposed for funding. Even with the change in source, this tax revenue still allows the city to make targeted transportation improvements that will improve travel in Alexandria.

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