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Arlington County Voters Get a Dividend

At 10:33 PM, an e-mail from Arlington County's press release office floated-in over the proverbial transom bearing the news that the Arlington County Board reduced the real estate tax rate by one-cent in its so-called FY 2015 budget mark-up. Here are the four bullet-points from the press release:

  • One-cent cut in real estate tax rate
  • County budget increase limited to 3%
  • 4.7% increase in Arlington Public Schools funding
  • Modest 1% COLA for County employees

And here's the introduction from the county's press release:

"The Arlington County Board today directed the County Manager to reduce the real estate tax rate by one cent in the Fiscal Year 2015 Budget. The Board's action came during the mark-up for the budget, which the Board is set to adopt during its April 22 meeting.

"The Board had to make some tough decisions," said Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette. "In order to give some break to homeowners who have seen their assessments rise, we limited the growth of the County budget, launched no new major initiatives and focused on funding schools and maintaining our core services and existing infrastructure."

"The budget mark-up includes a real estate tax rate of $0.996 per $100 of assessed value, a one-cent decrease from the $1.006 rate in Calendar Year 2013 (including the sanitary district tax). This represents a $6.6 million reduction from the budget proposed by the County Manager."

Virtually almost all of the remainder of the press release expounds on the four bullet points listed above.

Could the County Board have given Arlington County taxpayers a larger "Vihstadt dividend," which is how Wayne Kubicki, Arlington's fiscal guardian extraordinaire termed it (see yesterday's Growls)? Could it have been as large as the 3-cents recommended by an Arlington County Civic Federation resolution passed two weeks ago by a 23-11 vote (see our April 2 Growls here)? The answers are yes and definitely yes, respectively.

Your humble Growler would merely point to the remainder of the press release for the answers. First, note that even by cutting the real estate tax rate by 1-cent, "The Board’s action means the overall tax and fee burden for the average Arlington homeowner will be 4.6% higher than in 2014, or about $27 a month."

Unfortunately, the Board and their press release writers repeat their mantra about having the region's lowest real estate tax rate. Obviously, no one bothered reading our Arpil 2 Growls where we pointed to the Washington Post graphic, which demolished that tired rubric.

Read the remainder of the press release, noting all the spending that will still be occurring after the one-cent cut. Those plus a thorough scrubbing of the budget would probably make even the 3-cent recommendation of the Arlington County Civic Federation seem small. While we won't question the additional spending of $52,000 for the sexual assault hotline or the $72,606 for the mental health coordinator to train first responders, other items on the list seem questionable at best, e.g, $300,000 to plow snow from bike trails.

Once again, congratulations to John Vihstadt for his victory in last week's special election, and kudos to Wayne Kubicki for providing a framework for the Arlington County Board to cut the real estate tax rate.

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