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The Rabbit is Dead

A joint work session of Arlington’s County Board and School Board was held this afternoon in the Ashlawn Elementary School Library (the agenda is available here). The majority of the two-hour and 5-minute meeting was devoted to transportation issues associated with Ashlawn school additions. However, the third item listed concerned the “FY2014 budget outlook.”

Your faithful scribe attended to hear the budget outlook. Both County Manager Barbara Donnellan and Superintendent Patrick Murphy made short presentations. I’ll provide their major points in the form of “bullets.”

County Manager Donnellan

  • Provided no presentation slide, but looked around, and joked that she saw no one from the press. Well . . . .
  • The economy is weak.
  • After reminding everyone that about 50% of the real property tax base is commercial, and about 50% is residential, she said there will be about 1% growth in revenues from real estate.
  • Still seeing office vacancies.
  • Estimating a $50 million budget gap that would be roughly divided between the county ($25 million) and schools ($25 million).
  • “Other taxes” such as sale taxes, BPOL, etc. are projected to increase less than 1%.
    Residential real estate prices seem stable.
  • Initial projections of state and federal revenue is 0%.
  • State is looking at changes in state funding formula for local road money.
  • She has asked department heads to identify budget cuts.

Superintendent Patrick Murphy

  • He provided a presentation slide, but went through the items rather quickly.
  • Federal sequestration could result in 10% reductions of Federal money, or about $1.5 million.
  • State funding could be cut by $2.3 million, including from so-called cost of competition/instruction - $2.0 million, and support - a bit more than $345,000.

In closing her presentation, Ms. Donnellen said, “The Rabbit is Dead,” suggesting there is no more magical money to be found and no accounting tricks to be pulled out of the hat. Arlington taxpayers need to start getting ready to tell the Arlington County Board that increasing the tax rates on the backs of already overburdened taxpayers is not a option this winter.

For a comprehensive review of the county’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget (that’s the one that started July 1, 2012 and ends June 30, 2013), take a look at the report of the Civic Federation’s Revenues & Expenditures Committee (requires Adobe). I will invite Ms. Donnellen and Mr. Murphy to suggest any changes.

UPDATE (10/26/12) I corrected the spelling of the County Manager's name and corrected the length of the meeting. In addition, ARLnow reported today on the county's pending "major budget shortfall." Finally, I learned earlier this evening that during a visit to the Leeway Orverlee Civic Association this week, the County Board chairman mentioned a possible revenue source would be "increasing the car tax to 5.5% since it hadn't been increased in a while." So now the Board thinks they are entitled to our hard-earned money, too.

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