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Arlington County Board Makes It Official - Tax Burden to Rise

The Arlington County Board made it official yesterday, and adopted a $1.25 billion Fiscal Year 2018 budget, according to the county press release, released yesterday.

The five bullet points in the press release were:

  • 1.5-cent property tax rate increase dedicated to Metro, Schools
  • Cuts made to Manager’s proposed budget
  • $7.4 million more n General Fund revenues for Metro
  • $23.3 million increase for Schools
  • Investments in Columbia Pike, Lee Highway

We growled about the Board's action to raise the real estate property by 1.5 cents on Thursday following the Board's budget work session, the so-called Chairman's mark. The Growls includes links to both Arlington Sun Gazette and Washington Post reporting.

Here's what amounts to a summary of the Board's action on Saturday, April 22, 2017:

'The Arlington County Board today adopted a $1.25 billion balanced General Fund Budget for Fiscal Year 2018 that includes a one-and-a-half-cent increase in the real estate tax rate for Calendar Year 2017.

“This budget is a compromise and a consensus of the Board, and reflects the values of this community,” said Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette. “The Board agreed to a modest increase in the property tax rate — less than the Manager recommended — because of the extraordinary funding needs of Metro and our public schools. Both Metro and our schools are vitally important to Arlington. We and every other jurisdiction served by Metro are having to increase our contributions as Metro continues to rebuild. And the County must help APS meet the challenge posed by its growing student population. Both investments are investments in our future.”

"County Manager Mark Schwartz had proposed a two-cent increase in the real estate tax rate to provide additional funding for Metro and Arlington Public Schools. The Board chose to make cuts and reallocations to the Manager’s proposed budget to keep the increase to one-and-a-half cents per $100 of assessed property value. This will increase the tax rate from the current $0.991 per $100 of assessed value to $1.006 per $100 of assessed value (including stormwate tax)."

In his comments following adoption of the FY 2018 budget, John Vihstadt talked about his successful motion that directed the Manager to suggest options that would "dial back the advertised 2 cents property tax hike to a penny." He pointed out that some called it a 'charade' or 'posturing.' He thanked his fellow Board members, who "actually accepted a number of the reductions." As a result, he thought that dialing back the advertised property tax increase of two cents by 25% should be considered an "accomplishment."

He also pointed out that the Arlington County Civic Federation had highlighted that "with rising assessments, everyone will still face increased tax burdens higher than the inflation rate -- even before this property tax increase is included." The bottom line, Vihstadt said, is that "Arlington becomes less affordable each year," and then went on to emphasize the Board needs to "infuse a culture of economy here at 2100 Clarendon Boulevard," saying "We know how to add. Subtraction, not so much." He ended by saying, "continued scrutiny of how we approach our annual budget carryover process and our many reserves and fund balances is essential." An attitude that citizens should be looking for in each and every future County Board member, no matter their party affiliation.

The press release identified several fee increases, too, including:

  • Household solid waste fee was increased $6.88, bringing the rate to $314.16 per year.
  • Water/sewer rate was increased to $13.62 per 1,000 gallons, an annual increase of about $24.50 per household.
  • Accessory homestay permit fee of $60, a new source of revenue for the county.

As the county has emphasized numerous times over the past few months, Metro received a significant increase, specifically one cent of  the 1.5 cents tax rate increase. According to the press release, "the County's total operating support for Metro" is now $71 million.

The County continued to be enthralled by so-called affordable housing. "The Board increased funding to affordable housing over the FY 2017 budget by $1.3 million. Total AHIF funding in FY 2018 is just over $15 million." Parks advocates also benefited from Board action, e.g, $4 million for land acquisition rather than the Manager's $2 million recommendation.

While it's too late to take action on the FY 2018 budget, Growls readers who are Arlington County taxpayers are encouraged to make their concerns about spending by Arlington County and Arlington Public Schools heard by the Arlington County Board.  To contact the Board, just click-on the following link:

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

And tell them ACTA sent you.

UPDATE (4/25/17). The Washington Post's Patricia Sullivan reported on the County Board's official action raising the real estate tax rate by 1.5 cents, "all devoted to schools and Metro."

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