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Sustainable? Oh, Really!

Sustainable, or sustainability, are two of Arlington County government’s favorite words. A search for “sustainable” at the county’s website resulted in about 2,200 “hits” while “sustainability” resulted in about 1,450 “hits.” For example, just one program in the department of environmental services' FY 2004 proposed budged used the word “sustainable” four times while one Board member’s “remarks” at the January 1, 2008 organizational meeting contained three instances of “sustainability.”

Sustainability always comes to mind whenever we see how fast the county government spends our money. The latest example is in the 2008 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), which includes the audited financial statements. Page 189 provides several ratios of outstanding debt, including the “net bonded debt per capita.”

For the latest year, net bonded debt per capita grew by 5.03% (from $2,924 to $3,071). By contrast, inflation, represented by the consumer price index (CPI), increased by only 3.92%, according to the CPI numbers at the American City & County magazine website.

The ten-year comparison is equally dismal. Net bonded debt per capita grew by 48.57% (from $2,067 to $3,071) while inflation increased 29.24%.

Some important numbers to keep in mind the next time an Arlington County Board member asks for your vote. You can also express your concerns to the Board using the links in the column to the right. And tell them ACTA sent you.


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