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A Framework to Cut Arlington County's Real Estate Tax Rate

In a letter to the editor (LTE), posted today at the online Arlington Sun Gazette (now a part of InsideNoVa), Wayne Kubicki, Arlington's inestimable fiscal guardian, suggests the Arlington County Board return a part of their real estate tax windfall to its rightful owners, Arlington County taxpayers.

Kubicki points out the Arlington County Manager has now provided County Board members, and citizens, with both the mid-year and third quarter reviews of the FY 2014 budget (available here as items A-1 and A-9). These are among the final pieces before the Board adopts the FY 2015 budget on April 22. Here is Kubicki's analysis from his LTE:

"What did these two FY14 updates show? More available money – lots of it!

"While there are lots of numbers in those two reports – nothing unusual about that – they show a whopping net of $37.1 million of “extra money.” Major factors were real estate revenues being over budget due to the unexpected assessment increases ($25M) and releasing a prior reserve of $8M that had been previously set aside for “stabilization.”

"By agreement between the County Board and School Boards, $9.6 million is transferred to the Schools, leaving $27.5 million of additional funds on the county side.

"Given this news, a major part of the budget finalization deliberations will be what to do with this $27.5 million.

"As expected, Ms. Donnellan has already put forth her additional spending “wish list” totaling $13.4 million, for such spending areas as affordable housing, street paving and maintenance capital. For the purposes of this letter, let’s assume this entire list is funded.

"That still leaves $14.1 million left over.

"To recap, the county manager’s proposed budget, plus nearly $10 million more to the schools, plus another $13.4 million of County spending, is now all covered – and $14.1 million is still on the table."

Mr. Kubicki even proposes a name for his 1.5-cent real estate tax rate reduction -- a Vihstadt Dividend. Having elected the independent John Vihstadt to the Arlington County Board last week, Arlington's taxpayers would get a timely dividend for their vote. Although my "wish list" would be to give back that "additional spending" to Arlington County taxpayers, I'm confident the "old" County Board wouldn't pay a dividend.

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