Arlington County Board Adopts Budget, Raises Your Taxes
As we Growled on Thursday, the Board adopted a Fiscal Year 2013 budget today, and, as previously reported, chose to balance the budget by raising the real estate tax rate 1.3 cents per $100 of assessed value. Jason Spencer of the Clarendon-Courthouse-Rosslyn Patch started his report on the Board's budget adoption this way:
“County's $1 billion budget also bolsters tax support for affordable housing programs and restores library hours cut during recession.
“The Arlington County Board on Saturday unanimously approved a $1 billion budget that includes a 1.3 cent real estate tax increase.
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“The tax hike will cost the average Arlington County homeowner an extra $160 annually. The average assessed value of a home in Arlington is about $520,000.”
But hey, the Board showed Arlington homeowners they care. As the Patch reported. “(t)rash and recycling fees will be reduced by $32 per household.”
Spencer’s report includes a lot more of the gritty details. If you want more, you can read the county’s press release. Better yet, read the Arlington County Civic Federation's Revenues & Expenditures Committee's report (requires Adobe) to learn how they 'balanced the budget' with no increase in the real estate tax rate.
UPDATE (4/22/12): Always more needs, and if you don't believe them, just ask the County Board wizards. Here's how Scott McCaffrey reported it for the Arlington Sun Gazette this morning: "Board members said the increase was necessary to fund a host of needs, ranging from schools to public-safety. They included a pay raise for county employees – and themselves – in the package." But if the wizards made it bad for homeowners, consider the following:
"The tax-rate increase will hit owners of commercial properties hardest, as that sector saw an overall increase of 13.5 percent in assessed value this year compared to 2011. Owners of commercial property also pay a surcharge on their tax bills to fund transportation improvements."
"Describing the 1.3-cent tax rate increase as “modest,” Chairman Mary Hynes noted that the county has increased its budget for affordable housing by 75 percent over the past five years and intends to continue to do so. But her decision to study how the county funds its housing services created the first major fracture of her three-month-old chairmanship.
"Former chairman Chris Zimmerman (D) said that although the $8.6 million to be spent on housing initiatives was sorely needed, making a quarter of it a one-year-only grant was “a lost opportunity” to increase spending by more than $3 million next year and $10 million over the coming four years by pushing up the tax rate by another half-cent. But what really irked him was the proposal to study the county’s housing problem and policies.
“We understand the issue. We understand the dimensions of the problem. We’ve studied and studied. We’ve established goals and targets. We’ve reaffirmed them,” he said. He later added: “We don’t lack information about the magnitude of the problem. We don’t need to study whether cigarettes cause cancer or human activity causes climate change.”
"Hynes strongly defended the need to analyze the county’s approach and noted that the county will spend about 5 percent of its budget on housing in the coming year."
In addition, at the Post's The State of NoVa blog, Sullivan discusses "(w)hat a county budget really means." Especially interesting are the following:
"The fascinating ritual (we’re serious!) known as local government budgeting became even more intriguing Saturday when the normally unanimous Arlington County Board developed a rift over something they all agree upon — funding for affordable housing initiatives.
"Why are budgets fascinating? They are a watch-what-we-do moment, when all the rhetoric falls aside. Actions, as your mother told you, speak louder than words.
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"We in the press usually focus on the cost of taxes to homeowners (and don’t forget, renters, the costs are passed on to you, too) but owners of commercial property also shell out for the services provided by local government. When the value of a property goes up, so does its taxes, even if there is no tax rate increase.
"Scott McCaffrey in the local Sun-Gazette rightly points out that the 1.3 cent tax increase may hit businesses the hardest since their assessed values rose 13.5 percent, and they also pay a transportation surcharge.
"All this may be more than the ordinary Arlingtonian cares to know about the budget (but there’s plenty more on the county Web site). But for those who watch closely, or depend on services, or like politics, or pay the bills, the spring ritual of budgeting can provide many hours of fascination."