Arlington County Board: Robin Hood in Reverse
In Merry Old England, so the story went, Robin Hood stole from the rich and gave to the poor. For the story of Homeowner Grants, however, the Arlington County Board plunders the less well off in order to give to the better off among us.
The County Board started the Homeowners Grants program in FY 2006, based largely on the large increases in the assessed values of residential real estate. The budget set aside almost $2.2 million for an estimated 3,000+ grants. Grants were to be $500 plus $50 for additional exemptions. However, only 2,025 grants were made for a total just above $1.0 million with an average grant of $512.58 despite some extraordinary marketing efforts by the county. According to staff, 73% of the FY 2006 grants were addressed to condominiums. Even the Board’s own Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission (FAAC) urged the Board to restrain program growth, but that didn’t stop the Board from setting aside $2.1 million for these grants in their adopted FY 2007 budget (pages 28 and 244).
Who can apply for these grants and who pays for them? The County has paid for at least two full-pages “cha ching” advertisements (page 9, Washington Post, October 19 Alexandria-Arlington “Extra” and the back page, Arlington Connection, October 25-31) urging Arlington homeowners to apply if their adjusted gross income was $77,047 and their assets were $340,000 or less (the county website has a more complete set of frequently asked questions).The fundamental question obviously not understood by the Board is the range of household incomes in Arlington County. Using the zipcode lookup feature that ESRI makes available, we found that for the 10 Arlington zipcodes, the median household incomes ranged from $58,650 in 22204 to $126,865 in 22207. However, even in 22207, almost 14% of the 11,329 households had incomes of $50,000 or less. The following table provides the two county zipcodes with the highest and lowest household incomes.
|Median Household Income||$51,546||$58,650||$126,865|
|HH Income Under $50K||48.40%||40.20%||13.90%|
|HH Income $50K -- $100K||31.80%||36.80%||21.80%|
|HH Income Over $100K||19.80%||23.00%||64.30%|
|2006 Average Home Value||264,327||$387,692||$794,093|
The County Board sure look like Robin Hoods in reverse to us. And how many taxpayer dollars are being spent just for those advertisements?