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Arlington County Manager Joins World of Fiscal Realists

On Monday, September 8, the County Manager issued budget priorities (copy posted at Arlington County Civic Federation website) to his department heads for their use in preparing the 2006 fiscal year budget that he will propose next February. In the memo, the Manager talks about the “long-term economic sustainability of the community” because he is concerned that local government spending has been growing “by an average of 7.4% a year.” According to the Manager, “This level of growth is not sustainable for the long-term.” (emphasis in the original) In his memo, the Manager notes the average growth for residential real estate “is approaching 20% for the fourth year in a row,” the average residential tax bill has grown by $1,467 since 2000, and the share of real estate taxes paid by residential homeowners has grown from 49% to 60% (emphasis added). The Manager’s recognition that such numbers are not sustainable is a good beginning, and mirrors almost verbatim what ACTA said in our March 2004 newsletter. We now ask the Manager to take the second step in his newfound mantle of fiscal reality, which is to say the county’s bonded indebtedness is equally unsustainable. As we showed in the March 2004 newsletter, per capita debt has grown almost 59% since 1996 while general fund spending grew 49%, which the Manager said was “not sustainable.” We hope the county's elected officials gain the same understanding which the Manager has.

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