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Arlington County Board is Set-up to Receive Another Windfall

The voracious appetite of Arlington’s county government for more of our taxes is about to get a large dollop of it, according to yesterday’s press release from the county and this morning’s Washington Post. As the Post noted, “The value of the average single-family house increased by 18.25% to $541,800 while the average condominium increased by 19% to $367,000. The increases were less than last year.

So where’s the windfall for the county? Unlike many reporters who don’t seem to understand the relationship between the assessed value of real estate and the tax rates set by the politicians, Bill Turque, the Post’s reporter, fully understands that while market forces determine the assessed value of our homes, it is the politicians who determine the size of our tax bill. He writes: “The actual size of property tax bills will not be determined until local governments (read politicians) set their tax rates later this year. Officials are promising significant cuts in tax rates, but such reductions rarely offset the impact of steadily escalating housing values.”

And what about all those promises of tax relief made a year ago by the two major candidates for governor? According to Harry Minium in Thursday’s Virginian-Pilot(free registration required), “major real estate tax relief seems unlikely.” Gov. Kaine (D) proposed exempting the first 20% of a home’s value from taxation, but it would require a constitutional amendment, which requires passage by two consecutive General Assemblies with an intervening election. The governor’s spokesman now says, “It makes better sense to pursue this next year." However, that proposal, or others identified by Minium, are unlikely to pass both houses of the General Assembly. According to Sen. Nick Rerras (R-Norfolk), “A bill might pass the House . . . I don’t think any will pass the Senate” where they would have to get through the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. John Chichester (R). According to Rerras, “that committee doesn’t look favorably on anything limiting the power of local governments. They feel like that should be up to the local governments, and if the citizens aren’t satisfied, it’s up to them to vote their elected officials out of office.” Hear that Arlington citizens?

Arlington homeowners can search for the value of their home at Arlington's Department of Real Estate.