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A "Self-Inflicted Budget Gap"

On February 25, 23 we growled when the Arlington County Board followed the Manager's recommendation and voted to advertise a 2-cent increase in the real estate tax rate. The vote was 3-2. The 2-cent increase would raise additional revenues of $14.8 million.

According to the county's press release, "The County Manager had recommended a two-cent increase in the property tax rate specifically to address the “extraordinary” funding needs of Metro and enrollment growth in the Arlington Public Schools. The County Board accepted that recommendation in choosing a maximum tax rate to advertise."

The is all self-inflicted, however. In his weekly ARLnow.com column, Peter's Take, on Thursday, Peter Rousselot explains:

"The Manager fully highlighted these “extraordinary circumstances” last fall, but he and the County Board failed to act then to address that potential budget gap.

"Metro is critical to Arlington and our entire region, and our critically-important schools are experiencing dramatic enrollment increases. Without much-needed fundamental reforms, the long-term costs represented by APS and Metro will indeed put tremendous upward pressure on Arlington’s property tax rate in every year for the foreseeable future.

"However, any need to increase that rate in 2017 is entirely attributable to Arlington’s failure to follow recommendations that John Vihstadt, the Civic Federation, I and others made regarding last fall’s $17.8 million “close-out” surplus.

"In a column last October, I proposed that the Board defer almost all of the proposed expenditures that the Manager recommended for that $17.8 million surplus, and hold in reserve virtually all those funds for first-priority use to bridge any budget gap for FY 2018. Instead, the Board approved spending almost all that surplus. That was a mistake that should not be repeated."

In his conclusion, Rousselot said the Arlington County Board should "direct the Manager to reserve almost all of any fall 2017 close-out surplus to lessen upward pressures on the 2018 tax rate."

Growls readers who are Arlington County taxpayers, and agree the entire FY 2017 close-out surplus should be reserved and not be distributed until the following year's budget adoption, should tell that to the Arlington County Board. Just click-on the following link to send the Board a message:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130.

And tell them ACTA sent you.

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