General Property taxes are lower than in the first four months in FY 2015. Total collections to date of $72.9 million reflect 17.0% of the budgeted amount, compared to $91.6 million in FY 2015, which represented 22.1% of the total property tax revenues received. Real Property tax bills were mailed on September 22 and were due on November 16. Personal property taxes were due on October 5th. Through September, 90.5 percent of the total locally collected personal property tax revenues have been received, or $39.8 million compared to 87.8 percent for the same time period in FY 2015. Some of the November 2015 real estate taxes were received in October, but the majority of this revenue will be received in November. The significant various between FY 2015 and FY 2016 results from the timing of large tax service payments. For example, Wells Fargo submitted their multi-million payment in November this year, but in October last year.
Other local taxes continue to compare favorably to last year. Two notable areas are Consumer Utility taxes and Admissions taxes. Consumer Utility tax receipts through September are $0.9 million higher than through the same period last year. This is attributable to the timing of payments and not an indication of actual increasing revenue collections. Admissions tax is lower compared to FY 2015 due to the timing of a payment in August that was accrued to the prior year, but was received too late in August 2014 to be accrued in FY 2015. Other Revenue appears to reflect a significant variance and collections to date are higher than through September 2014, but it is important to keep in mind that the total revenues in FY 2015 included revenue from the sale of the Old Health Department Building. Recordation tax receipts are consistent with the budgeted amount at this point in the fiscal year.
As noted at the recent City Council Retreat, Virginia and the Washington DC region continue to outperform the nation in many economic indicators. Unemployment rates continue to be lower in the region and low in Alexandria specifically (3.5% compared to 5.1% in the nation. Unfortunately, the average wage in the Washington Metro Area is only $69,600 as of 2014, and has not recovered to the level seen in 2010. Per capita income in the region, which is available as of 2013, reflects the decline in wages in the region. Although the City’s per capita personal income increased from $80,952 to $81,0178, Arlington County declined by nearly $500. The Washington MSA declined by more than $200. Page 4 provides additional economic information related to wages in Virginia, including some positive news for the first quarter of 2015.
As of October 31, 2015, General Fund expenditures totaled $186.7 million, which equals 28 percent of the budgeted expenditures for FY 2016. At this time period, the City is one third of the way through the fiscal year and 31.7 percent of payrolls have been processed. Expenditures through October 2014 represented 27.6% of the expenditures for the entire year. At this point in the fiscal year there are no significant unbudgeted or unanticipated expenditures recorded and the variances shown in Attachment 2 are the result of changes in staffing levels or vacancies in departments. There are a number of personnel vacancies and employees in acting capacity in those departments. As positions are filled, the percent of budget expended will be more closely aligned with the percentage of the fiscal year that is completed. Departments that are impacted by this variances in staffing include, Human Resources, Project Implementation, Code Administration, Housing and the Office of Management and Budget. There is a significant variance in the spending percentage for the Registar, which is attributable to the increase in their budget of approximately $77,000 for the primary election in March, not to a significant change in their spending levels through the first quarter of the year. The significant variance for the City Attorney’s Office is the result of outside attorney payments to represent the City in complex litigation cases for which external expertise is necessary.
The chart below shows the City’s personnel expenditures to date. This is the most significant area of spending and represents approximately 60 percent of the City’s operating budget. Through October 31.7% of payrolls have been posted, which is 8.3 payrolls of 26.2 in FY 2016. Through the first one third of the year, the average payroll is $7.7 million. Payroll expenditures as a percentage of the total personnel budget is 7.5% in the month of October 2015, which is identical to October 2014.
Expenditure Variances in Detail
- Arlington County had the highest average weekly wage among the largest counties in the Commonwealth at $1,732, followed by Fairfax County ($1,635) and Alexandria City ($1,395). Nationally, the average weekly wage rose 2.1 percent over the year to $1,048 in the first quarter of 2015.
- Unemployment statistics published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed a decrease in Alexandria’s unemployment rate from 3.7 percent in September 2014 to 3.2 percent in September 2015. Alexandria’s rate is second to Arlington County’s rate of 2.8% and Falls Church at 3 percent, but below the Washington area rate of 4.3 percent and well below the national rate of 4.9 percent in September 2015.
- Job growth in the DC region is at 2 percent over the past year, which is in the lower half of the major metropolitan areas.
- According data provided by Equifax, the U.S. Census Bureau and NGKF Research, the Washington region has the highest per capita credit card debt at $2,809, compared to the national average of $2,051.
- The Washington region is second in the nation after the Boston area with average student loan debt of $41,400, compared to the national average of $29,000., according to the Department of Education, Credit Karma, Forbes and NGKF Research.
- Of the major metropolitan areas, the Washington region has the highest average retail spending per household in 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and NGKF Research.
- The chart below shows the change in the number of jobs and the average weekly wage for Alexandria compared to other localities in Virginia.