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County Board Spends Beyond Their 'Guidelines'

Wow, you can't even trust the innumerates on the Arlington County Board to follow their own guidelines.

Last fall, the Arlington County Board provided the County Manager guidelines to prepare her proposed Fiscal Year 2014 budget, which she released on February 23, 2013. From our read of her budget, she followed those guidelines to a "T" although it resulted in a real estate tax increase of 3.2 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

However, to placate such special interests as affordable housing and schools advocates, the Board voted to advertise a real estate tax rate increase of 5.0 cents. Now, two months later, the Board voted to increase the real estate tax rate by 3.5 cents. While things could have been much worse for taxpayers, holding the real estate tax rate to 3.5 cents is not victory for taxpayers. Here are the four 'talking points' included in the county's press release:

  • "Board restores funding for public safety, social safety net programs, and environment and natural resources
  • :Fully funds childcare regulation
  • "Provides additional funding for Arlington Public Schools and affordable housing
  • "Approves 3.5-cent increase in property tax rate"

Walter Tejada, Arlington County Board chairman, however, signaled the Board would have been happy to spend every last cent of the 5.0 tax rate increase the Board voted to advertise in February, as suggested in the press release:

“This is not a year in which we can do many new things,” said the Chairman.  “We can, however, maintain the fundamental commitments that Arlington has made, especially in areas like public safety, affordable housing, the social safety net for our most vulnerable residents, our natural environment, and our schools.  This budget reflects those values.”

"The County’s financial picture improved since the Manager’s proposed budget was released in February, with modest increase in various revenue streams, Tejada noted. This allowed the Board to restore many proposed service reductions, while only increasing the tax rate three-tenths of a cent above what was included in the proposed budget."

The affordable housing special interest people did get $3 million more, however, which came from so-called "one-time funding." Readers are urged to read the lengthy press release since it contains the details including links to many source documents. ARLnow's reporting includes the same press release cited above, but provides some of the historical context that's left out of the press release.

All-in-all, it was not a good day for Arlington County taxpayers.

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