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Arlington County Budget Includes 'Web' of State Money

When the Arlington County Board voted to adopt the $1.499 billion FY 2016 budget last night, total revenues included $72.3 million of state revenues. (agenda item 38.A. on the County Board's 4/21/15 agenda).

Although the $72.3 million in state revenues represents less than 5% of the FY 2016 Arlington County budget, a story in yesterday's Newport News Daily Press (be aware, there is a paywall), Travis Fain reminds us, "State money flows to localities through a complicated collection of funding streams." The story, by Travis Fain, certainly explains why state lawmakers are forever wrangling over the state budget.

Here's the beginning of Fain's report:

"Highway maintenance money comes from the state. So does pay for constitutional officers, such as commonwealth's attorneys and treasurers.

"The state pays part of the tab for E-911 services, which also get broken down into different streams. The state pays per diems for inmates in jails, though that doesn't always cover actual costs. It also picks up a percentage of new jail construction.

"It pays sheriff's deputies, and in this year's budget boosted starting salaries high enough that families of the lowest-paid deputies won't qualify for food-stamps anymore.

"There's 599 money for city police forces, named for the legislation that created this funding stream in 1979, as part of a package deal meant to slow down annexations.

"There's library aid, airport subsidies and transit money to buy new buses. Foster care and adoptive services funding comes through from the state, as does workforce training money.

"Lisa J. Cipriano, budget director for Newport News, figures that out of 260 or so revenue line items in her city's budget, probably 60 come from the state. And that doesn't include school funding.

"The same thing is happening in a different way to schools," Cipriano said."

Fain also writes, "Aside from the regular streams of funding, there are all sorts of small-time particulars to the state-and-local financial marriage. Hampton, for example, gets about $984,000 a year for Fort Monroe, the former Army post the state now owns and is redeveloping." The remainder of his interesting report is here.

The tangled web of state revenues suggest the need to reform the state budget process. But given the importance of state revenues to many of Virginia's town, cities, and counties, according to the Comparative Report of Virginia's local governments, prepared by the Virginia Auditor of Public Accounts, some of those local jurisdictions may be reluctant to reform the state budget process.

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