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Arlington County Taxpayers Get Overview of FY 2014 Budget

Arlington County Manager, Barbara Donnellan, provided County Board members an overview of the FY 2014 budget this afternoon. Here’s is the important stuff from the county’s press release:

“Citing the need to close a $22 million budget gap in Fiscal Year 2014, Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan today previewed for the County Board a proposed balanced $1.073 billion budget that calls for a mix of service cuts and a 3.2 cent real property tax rate increase.

“The County is feeling the effect of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, which has pushed office vacancy rates in Arlington to their highest level in years, Donnellan said. Flat property assessments, as well as ongoing economic uncertainty posed by the slow pace of the nation’s economic recovery, the threat of sequestration and deep federal spending cuts, pose ongoing challenges, she said.

“In addition, Arlington faces growing competition from the District and outer suburbs for commercial tenants, Donnellan said.

“To meet these challenges, the County Manager said, she followed County Board guidelines and proposed a combination of reduced services, the elimination of 46 staff positions and an increase in the real property tax rate to close the budget gap.”

Here are the “budget highlights” that were in the press release:

“Donnellan’s proposed budget would increase the tax and fee burden for the average Arlington household by 3.9% from $6,726 to $6,988, or about $22 a month ($262 a year). The proposed 3.2 cent tax rate increase includes 1.1 cents for schools and almost 0.5 cents to pay for new facilities. The remaining 1.6-cent increase will be used to maintain all other County services.

“Half of the proposed tax rate increase, Donnellan said, is attributable to the cost of new facilities and to increased enrollment in Arlington Public Schools. The proposed budget includes a transfer to Arlington Public Schools of $411.1 million, up $10.8 million, or 2.7% over FY 2013. Some $7.1 million of that, Donnellan said will fund a projected increase in student enrollment of 962.

“The proposed budget includes cuts in staffing for community policing, nursing care, camps and recreation, Donnellan said. In addition, some positions will be held vacant, “which may result in slower service times to residents and employees, and slower implementation of technology across the organization,” she said.

“The Manager included a merit step increase for County employees in her proposed budget, citing the County’s need to stay competitive in the region, and the increasing workload on remaining employees as cuts are made in staffing.”

On Saturday, the Board will be voting on a real estate tax rate to advertise, which the Board cannot exceed when they adopt the budget in April. Although the Manager expects to recommend raising the real estate tax rate by 3.2 cents per $100 of assessed value on Saturday, several of the Board's panjandrums seemed interested in advertising an even higher rate, e.g., an increase of 5.7 cents was bandied about, to give the Board "more flexibility." It's difficult, sometimes, to decide which is more out of control, the Arlington County Board or the U.S. Congress.

In addition to the press release, additional budget details are available, e.g., the Manager’s PowerPoint presentation as well as two “related items from the Manager’s proposed FY 2014 budget that will be formally presented to the panjandrums on the County Board on Saturday, February 24. Yesterday, the online ARLnow.com discussed the Manager's plans to recommend a 3.2 cent increase in the real estate tax rate, but also included a comparison of Arlington's real estate tax rate to others in Northern Virginia.

And save the evenings of Tuesday, March 26 and Thursday, March 28 for the public budget hearing and public tax rate hearing, respectively.


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