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Sacred Cows and Arlington County's Budget

The Acting County Manager, Barbara Donnellan, and the new Superintendent, Dr. Pat Murphy, were guest speakers at the Arlington County Civic Federation last night. After their opening comments, the two executives answered questions prepared by the Federation’s Revenues & Expenditures and Schools committees as well as questions from Federation delegates.

As described in the Federation’s December newsletter (requires Adobe): "Ms. Donnellan will focus on projected revenue forecast, size of the potential budget gap, size and impact of a potential tax increase, and strategy and process to cut services to close the potential balance of the budget gap.  Dr. Murphy will focus on the projected enrollment and expenses, revenue sharing agreement, size of the potential budget gap, and strategy to cut services to close the potential balance of the budget gap."

Scott McCaffrey of the Arlington Sun Gazette reported on the Federation meeting online today, including:

“Still-declining real estate values, particularly on the commercial side, will make next year’s budget choices more difficult than in any other recent time, government officials have warned for months. The full extent of the situation won’t be known until 2011 property assessments are finalized, which should occur in coming weeks.

“County Board members have directed Donnellan to close any budget gap with an equal mix of higher taxes and fees on the one hand, program reductions on the other.

“For homeowners, that’s likely to mean an increase in the real estate tax rate of approximately 8 cents per $100, or about 10 percent. With average residential real estate values expected to decline 5 percent in 2011, average tax bills would rise slightly.”

Copies of Ms. Donnellan’s presentation slides (requires Adobe) and Dr. Murphy’s presentation slides (also requires Adobe) are available at the Civic Federation’s website. Both contain very informative data for Arlington County about the upcoming FY 2011 budget.

About the sacred cows, note the following Donnellan quote reported by McCaffrey:

“Nothing’s off the table,” she said in a budget presention. “There’s very few sacred cows - I’m looking at everything.”

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