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Tax Relief, or More "Feel Good" Spending

In an effort to provide tax relief to Arlington's needier homeowners, the County Manager included a "targeted homeonwers' grant" in his FY2006 proposed budget (tab A, page 16), which would be paid for with 1/2-cent of your taxes. Unfortunately, the Manager's guidelines raise the question of who is being helped. For example, the Manager's initial guidelines in the budget would help anyone making less than $72,000 of income, or having less than $240,000 (for exemption) or $340,000 (deferral) of assets, not including the value of your home, be eligible for a $500 grant. The County Board chairman also appointed a task force to advise the Board on this particular grant program. According to the March 31 Arlington Sun-Gazette, there was little unanimity among the members on who should receive these grants. In addition, the ACTA president attended one of the task force's meetings, where county staff told the task force that four new county staff would need to be hired to review the paperwork for grant eligibility. At last night's Civic Federation meeting, delegates were equally split on the merits of whether the program provided tax relief, or just another 'feel good' county program. As with virtually all county programs, once implemented, it is not likely to go away after a few years.

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