Such is the case with the tax renewal that is before us. It is widely observed that our city council has not been the best steward of our tax resources even when confronted with the fact that there is actually a surplus balance in the general fund. It seems that the general feeling is that there is too much discretionary revenue to feed the indiscretions of the city council and that it is time to curtail the temptation.
I wish to proffer a measured approach to the matter and would hope that cooler heads prevail at the polls. The most recent 1/2 cent increase voted in was to fund sorely needed police additions. Any retreat from that stance currently has the possibility of causing an extreme regression in the progress that has been made most evidently in community policing.
I would propose that citizens support the tax renewal with an eye to future performance by the council and administration to identify waste and duplication as well as opportunity missed to produce revenue with city assets to add to the general fund coffers. While the current council has shown a penchant for ever-increasing operational budget, a change of persons holding office with more fiscally educated and conservative leanings could easily roll back the revenues required to operate the city. All that is lacking is the right persons to come forward to serve and a recall suit for those that are currently holding the city council seats.
The budget is structured to have record of all expenses contained within cost centers. All of the cost centers are known and have established a track record over the years and are organized along departmental lines. The current administration can reign in expenses by cooperative oversight with department heads and appears to be working in that direction. Once they have established the budgeted amounts are actually what is necessary to run those departments efficiently, then any excess may be returned to the general fund and departments ratcheted down to readjust the budget for next year while maintaining a satisfactory level of services. If no significant savings are found within departments, then it will be obvious that the current funding level is necessary.
All of that to say this, we do not want to experience a drop in police or fire protection as these go directly to the security of our city. Any cuts to other departments would jeopardize the health of our citizens if performance is not adequate in water, sewer, sanitation, mosquito control, etc.
In summary, it is most prudent to pass the tax renewals and then press the administration to operate as conservatively as possible until the next budget can be submitted. During that time, all districts must impress upon their council members and the two at-large members the importance of returning to a position of fiscal restraint or face removal from office. There are qualified people living among us that would be good leaders, they just don't want to join the circus to serve their community. If our city council cannot find it within themselves to rise to the occasion, when we must rise to remove them from office for the general good.
The good people of Alexandria should remember that when they had questions about extremely high utility bills and crime sprees, all they got from their leaders were blank stares, shoulder shrugs, and dreams of spray parks. Enough is enough.
It is time to expect our leaders to lead and if they cannot, then they need to get the hell out of the way. We just may have to give them a nudge.