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A View of Arlington County Spending

After taking a look at how state revenue affects the county budget, on Wednesday we growled about specific sources of county revenues. Today, let’s take at per capita county spending in comparison to the same functions in Fairfax County. The numbers are for Fiscal Year 2007, and come from the Virginia Auditor of Public Accounts’ Data Point webpages.

                                                  Arlington      Fairfax
                                                  Per Capita    Per Capita

General Government             $  171.59      $  122.42    
Judicial Administration              67.96          37.68
Public Safety                               826.94         554.15        
Public Works                               286.91        159.77
Health and Welfare                     668.60       448.52
Parks and Recreation                  265.86        138.52
Community Development           107.79        135.48
Education                                     1,785.91     2,052.20

Total Expenditures                    $4,181.55   $3,648.74

County elected officials have argued in the past that such comparisons as above are akin to comparing apples and oranges. There undoubtedly is some of that, but there are real reasons for some of the differences. For example, while the cost per student of the Arlington Public Schools is significantly higher, as we’ve noted on a number of occasions, the percentage of the Fairfax County population of school age (5-17) is significantly higher (17.9%) than in Arlington County (10.7%). Furthermore, Arlington County officials are free to delve into the differences in per capita spending in their Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). And we wish they would!

p.s. Kudos to the State Auditor of Public Accounts for adding new features to the website, and in general striving to make the site more taxpayer-friendly


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