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Does the Future Hold a Real Estate Tax Increase?

The county released 2013 real estate property assessments on Friday afternoon, according to this press release. Here's the three takeaways, according to the county:

  • Single-family residential values up 1.0%; commercial properties flat
  • Assessments available online 5 p.m. Jan. 18
  • Average home value rises to $524,700

Detailed information such as how single-family homes are assessed, how to appeal your  assessment, or information about exemptions for disabled veterans can be obtained at this webpage. You can look-up real estate assessments here.

Here is what the county had to say about residential assessments:

"The average assessment for existing single-family properties, including condominiums, townhouses and detached homes, increased approximately 1.0%, from $519,400 in Calendar Year (CY) 2012, to $524,700 in CY 2013.

"Each homeowner will receive an assessment reflecting the value of his or her property. The 1.0% average increase is just that -- an average; 47% of residential owners will see no change in their assessment; 22% will see declines of varying amounts. Of the 31% with increased values, the amount also will vary. Variations in property assessments for 2013 reflect the diversity of Arlington’s neighborhood and housing stock."

Let's talk about the possible real estate tax rate increase. As we growled on October 25, 2012, the County Manager told Arlington County Board members at a joint meeting with the School Board, "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." She also estimated a $50 million budget gap that would be roughly divided between the county ($25 million) and schools ($25 million). Here's how the press release describes the budget outlook:

"Slower revenue growth and projected expenditures have resulted in an estimate that combined County-School expenditures will outpace revenue (at current tax rates) by $50 million for fiscal year 2014.  The County and Schools have been working aggressively to reduce expenses.

"The County Manager and School Superintendent will propose their budgets in February and will include a mix of cost cutting and proposed tax and fee increases.   Real estate tax revenues represent approximately 56% of total County revenues; other sources, particularly state and federal grant funding, are increasingly uncertain."

FY 2014 budget information is available here, which includes access to budget guidance the County Board provided to County Manager Barbara Donnellan last fall.

So if assessments are flat, and other revenue sources are not much different, you get three guesses as to how the five eminences on the Arlington County Board will raise $50 million. If you guessed they'll do it by raising the real estate tax rate, you are most likely correct.

UPDATE (1/21/13): Arlington Sun Gazette reports online about the 2013 real estate assessments.

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