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by ARLnow.com — February 24, 2011 at 3:58 pm 1,778 59 Comments

(Updated at 9:20 a.m.) Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy proposed a budget Thursday morning that increases high school class sizes but grants teachers at least part of a desired pay raise.

The proposed FY 2012 budget includes a step increase for teachers and other school employees that was not granted last year amid a serious budget crunch. It does not, however, include a cost of living (COLA) increase. COLA increases used to be granted nearly every year until Arlington’s budget difficulties began two years ago.

Senior employees and employees at the top of the pay scale — who together make up about 33 percent of the work force — are not eligible for a step increase. Dr. Murphy is proposing a one-time payment of $1,000 to  those employees. The total cost of all pay raises is estimated at $16.4 $7.9 million. (The original $16.4 million figure included benefit and retirement increases.)

The new $470 million school budget raises the cost per pupil to $18,115, from a low of $17,322 last year and a high of $19,538 in FY 2009. The budget represents a $27.8 million — or 6.3 percent — increase over last year’s budget. It reflects, however, a projected enrollment increase of nearly 1,000 students over FY 2011.

The superintendent’s budget includes an increase in class sizes for grades 9-12, from 24.4 students per class to 25.4 students per class. Dr. Murphy leaves a one student increase in class sizes for grades K-8 as an “option” for the school board to consider. Dr. Murphy, facing a looming system-wide capacity crisis, also budgets for the purchase of 12 new relocatable classrooms.

“Capacity and enrollment will continue to be something we’re going to have to look at,” Dr. Murphy said, noting that Arlington schools still “have some of the smallest class sizes in the region.”

The budget includes some good news for supporters of the Arlington’s David M. Brown Planetarium.

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by ARLnow.com — February 24, 2011 at 2:31 pm 1,940 38 Comments

The past two months have apparently not been kind to a handful of local restaurants.

A number of restaurants have fallen farther behind on their payment of Arlington County meals taxes. Such tax delinquencies are sometimes a sign of shaky financial health, as was the case for failed restaurants like Bebo Trattoria, Restaurant Vero and McGinty’s Public House, all of which still owe tens of thousands of dollars to the county.

The latest delinquency list shows that Front Page Restaurant in Ballston (4201 Wilson Blvd) ran up an additional $23,000 tab with the county between December and February. The restaurant now owes Arlington $46,531.82. As of August, it only owed $17,113.52.

Kora Restaurant in Crystal City (2250 Crystal Drive) is also suffering. It owes $25,908.06 to the county, compared to $10,624.41 in December and $5,517.03 in August.

Tandoori Nights in Clarendon (2800 Clarendon Blvd) owes $19,404.69, compared $9,706.29 in December.

Cold Stone Creamery, in Ballston Common Mall (4238 Wilson Blvd), owes $13,959.15, compared to $8,633.35 in December.

Guarapo in Courthouse (2039 Wilson Blvd) owes $13,566.00. It was not listed in December’s delinquency list.

Champion Billards, near Shirlington (2620 S. Shirlington Road), owes $10,547.80, compared to $5,494.71 in December.

In a somewhat bright spot, former Bebo Trattoria owner Roberto Donna appears to be making his court-ordered repayments to the county. Bebo now owes $153,715.976, which is more than any other establishment but less than the $160,898.82 that the county said it owed in December.

Extra Virgin in Shirlington (4053 Campbell Ave) owes the most of any restaurant that’s currently in business. It owes $71,171.50 down slightly from December’s $72,352.56.

The 4 percent county meals tax is collected on all prepared foods and beverages sold in Arlington. Often, this tax is passed directly on to the consumers in the form of a tax charge on the bill.

Flickr pool photo by Chris Rief. No connection with any restaurant named here is implied.

by ARLnow.com — February 24, 2011 at 12:17 pm 1,186 12 Comments

(Updated at 1:30 p.m.) Cheryl Simmons, a convicted felon who collected signatures for last year’s change-of-government effort, pleaded guilty to voter fraud in Arlington County Circuit Court this morning.

Simmon’s guilty plea comes one week after another person hired to obtain petition signatures, William Cockerham, pleaded guilty to a similar voter fraud charge.

State law specifies that petition signatures must be witnessed by someone who is at least eligible to register to vote. As convicted felons, neither Simmons nor Cockerham were eligible.

Both Simmons and Cockerham were hired by Signature Masters, a firm that specializes in petition drives. The firm was contracted to collect signatures for last year’s unsuccessful attempt to change Arlington’s form of government, which was sponsored by Arlington’s police and fire unions.

In a statement of fact entered as part of today’s guilty plea, prosecutors said that Simmons told Shawn Wilmoth, the president of Signature Masters, that she had been convicted of a felony. Nonetheless, prosecutors say Wilmoth hired Simmons to collect signatures at a fee of $3 per signature. Later, when news reports revealed that Simmons was felon, Wilmoth told the Washington Post that Simmons had passed a background check.

“It was an issue with the background-check company we are dealing with,” he told the paper.

Prosecutors said most of the 55 petitions pages that Simmons signed as a witness were handed to her by Wilmoth at a local Starbucks. Only a few pages, prosecutors said, contained signatures she had actually collected.

So far, Wilmoth has not been charged with a crime.

Simmons’ sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 20. She remains free on bond.

by ARLnow.com — February 24, 2011 at 10:05 am 795 17 Comments

A man was arrested Monday afternoon after police say he took photos of a 13-year-old girl in a dressing room. According to police, the 34-year-old took the photos with a cell phone camera he stuck under the dressing room door.

UNLAWFUL FILMING-ARREST 02/21/11, Unit block S. Glebe Road. On February 21 at 3:30 pm, an adult male was found taking pictures of a 13-year-old girl in a dressing room. He was apprehended by police. Jose Cabrera Orozco, 34, of Arlington, was charged with Unlawful Filming of a Minor. He was held without bond.

Also in this week’s Arlington County crime report are items from the rash of car break-ins we told you about earlier this week.

The reports below — which represent thefts from at least 26 cars — only show incidents in which more than one vehicle was broken into in the same area. Individual break-ins are not noted in the report.

LARCENY FROM AUTO (SERIES) 02/17/11, 400 block of S. Edgewood Street. Between 9 pm on February 16, and 8:30 am on February 17, an unknown subject entered at least seven unlocked vehicles. Various items were stolen.

LARCENY FROM AUTO (SERIES) 02/17/11, 800 block of Army Navy Drive. On February 17 between 12:45 pm and 10 pm, a suspect broke into at least two vehicles in the same parking garage. Various items were stolen from each. There are no known suspects.

LARCENY FROM AUTO (SERIES) 02/19/11, 800 block of N. Randolph Street. Between noon on February 18, and 11 am on February 19, a suspect broke into at least eight vehicles in the same parking garage. Various items were stolen from each. There are no known suspects.

LARCENY FROM AUTO (SERIES) 02/19/11, 3200 block of Wilson Boulevard. On February 19 between 6 pm and 11:30 pm, a suspect broke into at least two vehicles in the same parking lot. Various items were stolen from each. There is no suspect description.

LARCENY FROM AUTO (SERIES) 02/21/11, 4000 block of N. 20th Street. On February 20 between 9 am and 2:30 pm, a suspect entered at least two unlocked vehicles and stole items from each. There are no known suspects.

LARCENY FROM AUTO (SERIES) 02/21/11, 2300 block of S. 9th Street. Between 4 pm on February 20, and 10 am on February 21, a suspect entered at least two unlocked vehicles in the same neighborhood. Various items were stolen from each. There is no suspect description.

LARCENY FROM AUTO (SERIES) 02/22/11, 1000 block of N. Quincy Street. Between 8 pm on February 21, and 7 am on February 22, a suspect broke into at least three vehicles in the same address. Various items were stolen. There are no known suspects.

The rest of the crime report, after the jump.

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by ARLnow.com — February 24, 2011 at 9:46 am 670 7 Comments

Forecasters are warning of high winds that will be blowing into our area tomorrow morning and afternoon.

The winds come less than a week after Saturday’s wind storm, which knocked down large trees and power lines.

HIGH WIND WATCH NOW IN EFFECT FROM FRIDAY AFTERNOON THROUGH FRIDAY EVENING…

THE HIGH WIND WATCH IS NOW IN EFFECT FROM FRIDAY AFTERNOON THROUGH FRIDAY EVENING.

* TIMING… FRIDAY 11 AM TO 7 PM.

* WINDS… WEST-NORTHWEST 20 TO 30 MPH WITH GUSTS UP TO 60 MPH POSSIBLE.

* IMPACT… BE PREPARED FOR THE POSSIBILITY OF POWER OUTAGES… AND DOWNED TREES AND LARGE BRANCHES. ENSURE LOOSE OBJECTS ON YOUR PROPERTY ARE SECURED OR BROUGHT INSIDE.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

A HIGH WIND WATCH MEANS THERE IS THE POTENTIAL FOR A HAZARDOUS HIGH WIND EVENT. SUSTAINED WINDS OF AT LEAST 40 MPH… OR GUSTS OF 58 MPH OR STRONGER MAY OCCUR. CONTINUE TO MONITOR THE LATEST FORECASTS.

by ARLnow.com — February 24, 2011 at 8:00 am 2,008 31 Comments

Arlington police arrested a shoplifting suspect in Pentagon City last night after two store employees gave chase.

Just after 5:30 p.m., a call came in for two men chasing a woman down South Hayes Street. Later, the person being chased was described in police dispatches as a six-foot tall man dressed as a woman.

The man had allegedly stolen an item from a store in the Pentagon City mall, and the two men were identified as store employees.

The men chased the suspect into a condo complex on 15th Street, across from Costco. Police arrived and apprehended the suspect, who was handcuffed and later placed in the back of a squad car.

The store employees declined to reveal their employer but confirmed that they chased the suspect after a theft.

ARLnow.com was in Pentagon City on another story and was able to arrive at the scene shortly after the incident.

by ARLnow.com — February 24, 2011 at 6:00 am 1,869 51 Comments

Lee Highway McDonald’s Remains Closed – The McDonald’s at 4834 Lee Highway was still closed yesterday. An electrical fire broke out in the restaurant’s basement Saturday morning.

Arlington’s Most Accident-Prone Intersections — Following up on our Arlington’s Most Dangerous On-Ramps article, TBD has come out with a list of Arlington’s Most Dangerous Intersections, courtesy of data from the police department. The most dangerous intersection? Route 50 and Southbound Washington Boulevard, with 113 accidents. [TBD]

Brink Wins Passage of Inspector General Bill — An anti-fraud bill co-sponsored by Arlington Del. Bob Brink has won final approval in the Virginia legislature. The bill, HB 2076, will establish a statewide Office of Inspector General “to combat fraud, waste, abuse or corruption in state-funded agencies.” It must now be signed into law by Gov. Bob McDonnell. [Richmond Sunlight]

Cuccinelli Examines Fraud Case Against Donor — A man who gave $55,000 to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s 2009 campaign may be prosecuted by Cuccinelli for fraud. An investigation by Virginia’s consumer services department determined that the U.S. Navy Veterans Association, which has been accused of diverting money intended for veterans charities, solicited $2 million from Virginians under false pretenses. The head of the group, who donated to Cuccinelli’s campaign, is currently at large. Retiring state Sen. Patsy Ticer sponsored legislation intended to help the group last year, then urged Gov. Bob McDonnell to veto it after she read about the fraud allegations.  [Washington Post]

Courtesy photo

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