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That Plundering Arlington County Board

In Fiscal Year 2003, the Arlington County Board was responsible for total “general government expenditures” of $713,586,394. Ten years later that total increased by $383,181,958, or 53.7% to $1,096,768,352 in Fiscal Year 2012.

However, there was the issue of inflation, and Arlington’s population increased from 196,925 in 2003 to 216,004 in 2012. The total expenditures and population come from Arlington County’s Fiscal Year 2012 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR).

So let’s see. On a per capita basis, Arlington County spent $3,623.64 per capita in 2003. Adjusted for inflation, using the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics’ “inflation calculator,” that would be $4,521.55 in 2012 dollars. So adjusting the $713.6 million of total expenditures in 2003 for inflation and population would result in total expenditures in 2012 of $976,672,886.

But wait a minute. The Arlington County Board spent $1,096,768,352 in 2012, or just over $120 million more than the amount adjusted for inflation and population.

Now if you think that adjusting the County Board’s expenditures for inflation and population isn't appropriate, consider the Virginia General Assembly’s joint legislative audit and review commission, known as JLARC, has been reporting on state spending for 12 years, and include adjustments for those two factors (see study #432 at JLARC’s website).

Fiscal responsibility image from FotoSearch.

So now when you hear a Board member campaigning for reelection on a platform of fiscal responsibility, you’ll know the truth. And it sure seems like the Board should be cutting the real estate tax rate, and not increasing the tax rate even more than what’s already in the County Manager’s FY 2014 proposed budget. Yes, I know, this is Arlington County, so I won't be holding my breath.

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