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Getting Real Value for Your Tax Dollars?

Arlington County's local government recently released the results of the 2008 resident satisfaction survey. There was 87% satisfaction with the overall quality of life, but only 62% satisfaction for “value received for your tax dollar.”

So let’s a look. In the Arlington County Board’s FY 2009 Adopted Budget, there is a section called “selected fiscal indicators.” For fiscal years 2000 through 2009, two indicators in particular can provide perspective to those “satisfaction” numbers -- resident population and county FTEs (full-time equivalent employment).

In FY 2000, there were 3.413 county FTE and 190,313 residents, which equates to 17.9 employees per 1,000 residents. By FY 2009, the comparable numbers are 3,825 county FTEs, 206,800 residents, and 18.5 employees per 1,000 residents. The numbers for employment per 1,000 residents is a 3.4% increase from 2000 to 2009, including FY 2005 when employment was 18.7 per 1,000 residents.

Just how much county government do Arlington’s taxpayers provide? Are numbers like 17.9 or 18.5 county FTE per 1,000 residents too many, too few, or just about right? Fortunately for Arlington’s taxpayers, in his 2005 “state of Fairfax County” speech, Gerry Connolly, Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, cites comparable numbrs. He says:

“Fairfax County remains one of the most efficient local governments in the country. Since Fiscal Year 1991, the ratio of County employees per resident has fallen from 13.57 employees for every 1,000 residents to 11.15 employees per 1,000 in Fiscal Year 2005.”

If Fairfax County has less than 12 employees per 1,000 residents, what does that say for the efficiency of Arlington’s county government? And would Arlington’s residents have given the county government anything near a 62% rating for "value for tax dollars" if they knew the comparable "efficicy numbers" for Fairfax County? Arlington taxpayers may have a few questions for the Arlington County Board.

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