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County Budget Cuts, Tax Hikes Looming

by Katie Pyzyk — November 19, 2012 at 4:50 pm 4,606 263 Comments

The Arlington County Board has asked County Manager Barbara Donnellan to plug a projected $25-50 million budget gap with a combination of spending cuts and tax increases.

At its Saturday meeting, the Board approved a set of budget guidelines intended to assist Donnellan in putting together her proposed budget for fiscal year (FY) 2014. Despite two years of rising real estate assessments and tax rates, the projected 1-2 percent increase in county property values this year is not expected to be enough to keep up with increased spending.

(The real estate tax accounts for just over 55 percent of all county revenue.)

Costs are expected to increase in FY 2014 in the specific areas of employee compensation, health care, funding for Metro, debt costs, communications infrastructure and operating expenses for new county facilities like the Arlington Mill Community Center.

Donnellan has already taken initial steps to begin cutting costs, such as ordering a hiring slow down, which has already gone into effect. Donnellan has also authorized early retirement offers to qualified staff, and has instructed department heads to provide expenditure reductions.

The county last year benefited from an $18 million carryover from the previous year’s budget. Without that carryover, revenue next year is projected at $1.039 billion while total spending is expected to increase 1.1 percent to $1.064 billion. Projected county expenditures in FY 2014 include $401.8 for Arlington Public Schools, a 0.7 percent increase over this year’s budget.

Among the factors hurting county revenue, officials say, are the impacts of the Base Realignment and Closure Act, potential federal budget cuts and stagnant real estate assessment growth.

County Board Chair Mary Hynes promised to engage the community in the budget process, but warned residents to expect some unpopular budget decisions.

“During these uncertain economic times, we will have to make some tough choices,” she said. “We look forward to months of discussion with the community as we set priorities and make those choices.”

The Board asked Donnellan for an equal mix of tax hikes and budget cuts.

“The Board emphasized the importance of maintaining long-term financial sustainability and preserving the County’s AAA bond ratings,” according to a county press release.

One sticking point of the budget discussion came in dealing with funding for affordable housing. Board members Walter Tejada and Chris Zimmerman were in favor of increasing the annual allocation to the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund. Zimmerman said that the Board needs to take action to prove its commitment to affordable housing, and waiting would cause the goal to fall farther and farther to the wayside.

“The problem is of course that we’re losing a lot of opportunities now and it becomes harder over time, it becomes more expensive if you try to make up ground later,” said Zimmerman. “If we’re not ready and our non-profit partners aren’t able to make acquisitions at that time, then we lose the opportunity and those become high value, high income places exclusively. And we won’t have the opportunity to save the housing that we said we’d save.”

Board member Jay Fissette disagreed with increasing the AHIF.

“To actually step out in this difficult period when the rest of this guidance acknowledges the challenges we face, to suggest that we should limit this Board and the manager in future years without the knowledge of what’s coming up, and increase the affordable housing fund, commit ourselves to nearly triple it, I find irresponsible,” said Fissette.

Board member Libby Garvey agreed with Fissette, saying few budget cuts are ever easy to address.

“There are a lot of priorities that are really good. And governing is all about trade-offs and some of them are pretty difficult,” said Garvey. “It’s a complex issue. It’s a very costly issue to address.”

Ultimately, Hynes made the final call not to include the AHIF increase in the guidance, saying the Board can re-examine it later because this is simply the beginning of the budget process. She disputed Zimmerman’s claims that the county could fall behind in its affordable housing goals if the issue isn’t immediately addressed.

“We will not lose ground. We will move forward. The trouble we have right now is that at this point in time, we still don’t exactly know what’s going to happen with the local or the national economy. We’re looking at pretty low revenue growth from assessments, and we have a lot of very ambitious goals,” Hynes said. “We always have to make tough choices, that’s just the way it goes.”

Prior to addressing FY 2014, the Board closed out the FY 2012 budget. Allocations made with extra funds left over from the budget include $5.4 million for employee compensation adjustments and $3 million to increase the FY 2013 Budget Stabilization Contingent, which will be set aside to deal with impacts from possible sequestration and the loss of federal funding.

Arlington residents will have their first formal opportunity to provide input on the county budget on Thursday, Nov. 29., during a planned joint county-school budget forum. The forum will be held from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Washington-Lee High School (1301 N. Stafford Street) cafeteria.

  • James Moron

    Sorry to go all Grover Norquist, but here are a few ideas:
    1. More streetcars
    2. More swimming complexes
    3. More 5Ks – they solve everything
    4. Let’s have developers steer their “givebacks” to subsidize housing in expensive buildings rather than improving roads/sidwalks/infrastructure that might directly offset taxpayer expenses.

    • james

      It’s the typical democratic way…spend too much….tax more to cover spending…then they up spending and then will need to tax more…cycle repeats, etc while the rest of us need to actually lower spending to reflect what we actually bring in.

      • http://URL drax

        So you skipped over the part about spending cuts, James?

        Read it again.

        • http://URL Patrick

          Did you make up the part about spending cuts, drax?

          “Without that carryover, revenue next year is projected at $1.039 billion while total spending is expected to increase 1.1 percent to $1.064 billion.”

          A 1.1 percent increase sure doesn’t sound like a spending cut.

          • http://URL drax

            You need to read harder, son. Ask a parent to help.

          • redstang423

            Drax, I’m not sure how anyone could make it more clear. “… total spending is expected to INCREASE 1.1 percent to $1.064 billion.”

            An increase is an increase no matter how you slice it. Just because you cut money from one area doesn’t mean you’re reducing spending if your overall numbers increase.

          • Captain_Obvious

            But “The Board asked Donnellan for an equal mix of tax hikes and budget cuts.” Maybe the tax hikes will close the gap more. Hello higher property taxes !

          • http://URL drax

            That language is describing the CURRENT budget (projected for next year), not the one that will be required to fix the gap. Note the word “projected.” Note that the numbers add up to the deficit. This is describing the problem, not the solution.

          • CW

            Drax in this instance is correct. What the Board is doing here is, for lack of a better word, fearmongering. They are showing what the status quo would look like, and it is not positive. This is being presented as motivation for the corrective action that they describe. The FY2014 budget is not final, not even close.

          • John Fontain

            CW, no offense, but if you think there won’t be tax increases next year when the Board is saying they want tax increases, then you don’t know this Board. It’s going to happen, it’s only a matter of extent.

            Drax, while the County is planning to make some selective spending cuts, that doesn’t change the fact that total spending and total taxes will increase next year. Don’t miss the forest for the trees.

          • drax

            John, you can predict that spending wont’ be cut, but you can’t say for sure. Donnallen says there will be, and is already cutting this year. There may be an increase in spending over last year that is lower than budgeted, but that’s still a cut in next year’s budget.

          • John Fontain

            drax said: “There may be an increase in spending over last year that is lower than budgeted, but that’s still a cut in next year’s budget.”

            An increase in spending is a cut in next year’s budget? Wow! You would have done well at Enron!

          • Patrick

            No drax increasing spending by less than previously forecast is not a spending cut. It is a spending increase of less than originally projected. A spending cut is actually spending less dollars year over year.

          • CW

            @John – you are likely completely right. I was just pointing out that the 2014 numbers being shown in the referenced document are projections, before any corrective action is taken, not gospel. I have little doubt that there will be tax increases (probably on businesses).

          • drax

            Let’s not play word games. A cut in the amount planned to spend is a cut to the budget for that year. The point is that it is a reduction in spending that helps close a budget deficit.

      • torsionbar

        I propose that electronic calculators be issued to those in public office. A nice TI-83 perhaps, like I had in college. Perhaps that will help them understand that street cars and aquatic centers are not the solution to a budget deficit.

        • http://URL drax

          Whether or not the streetcar/pool is worth doing on their merits, you don’t just cancel big capital improvement projects because of a one-time, relatively small budget problem.

          • Captain_Obvious

            25-50 Million is not a small budget problem

          • http://URL drax

            In a $1 billion budget, yes, it’s relatively small. Regardless, it’s hardly big enough to require canceling entire capital projects.

          • http://URL Dezlboy

            Concur. If Arlington is to remain one of the best places to live, the county has to keep making improvements, even those that I may disagree with. The long view shouldn’t be lost due to short term issues.

          • drax

            Well, for the record, I voted against the pool bond. I’m just saying its not relevant to a short-term budget deficit.

          • John Fontain

            drax said: “Well, for the record, I voted against the pool bond.”

            My eyes are welling up with tears. Drax, you’ve made my day.

    • ARL-VA

      How exactly does a 5K race affect the County budget?

      • Abe Froman

        If you think the entry fees cover the marketing, police OT and road closures and other associated costs, your deluding yourself.

        • ARL-VA

          Since when has the County paid for marketing 5K races? That’s news to me. Or is a mention in a general email newsletter really that expensive? Good lord.

    • Abe Froman

      Exactly … extend and pretend … they learned it by watching the clowns across the river and Real Housewives everywhere

    • New to Arlington

      My Sarcasm Detector just went off. Pretty funny.

    • b myers

      Streetcars-fixed rail transportation is too limited where it can go, causes dangerous braking conditions for cars & trucks, is dangerous for bicycles, is noisy, has overhead wires (remember the broohaha during storms when people lost electricity), dangerous for pedestrians when stops are put in the middle of the roadway, creates more unsightly views to those offended by above ground power, telephone, and cable wires. Electric buses that can have batteries charged are more reasonable as routes can be adjusted according to needs.
      Swimming complexes- take care of luxuries after you take care of necessities
      5Ks- what are these? Running events that are disruptive to businesses and citizens that need access to roads
      Givebacks- your only prudent thought put forth

  • Alex

    No street car, no aquatics center, shut down Artisphere. Problem solved?

    • http://URL FedUp

      +10

      • James

        I believe the correct term is

        +$25-50 Million.

      • Give me a break

        Time to scale back spending, Board. $1B annual budget with the insanely expensive vanity projects? This has to stop. I’m a Democrat, but I’m voting Republican for every Board election until sanity is restored.

        • Josh S

          Just out of curiosity, how would voting Republican “restore sanity?”

          • KalashniKEV

            Republicans have math.

          • drax

            Kev, you dare to talk about math when you want to cut the county budget by two thirds?

          • * Ballston

            Except at the federal level apparently

          • KalashniKEV

            1) All county employees count off by threes.
            2) Heads the even numbers get fired and nobody notices.
            3) Tails the odd numbers get fired and we have a brief standing meeting over the hood of a truck about how we address the workload.
            4) Standards and Discipline are enforced, quality of life improves, and processes run more efficiently without the deadwood.

          • Josh S

            Hey Kev, I hear Grover Norquist might be hiring soon….you should look into it.

          • drax

            Kev, when you get all mad about how nobody ever listens to you or takes your ideas seriously? It’s because of the things you say. Just FYI.

          • KalashniKEV

            Drax, You’re fired.

            Turn in your visor and polo to the head librarian.

        • Outside the box

          You could also vote Green Party, they were opposed to a lot of the Arlington vanity spending (expensive dog park, pool complex, etc) and have some momentum going.

    • http://URL BluemontRes

      Don’t forget the 16K bocce court for use by the four block radius of Bluemont residents (all 20 of them who voted for it). They were promised PEG money by the Parks Dept. so we’re still likely getting that “improvement”.

      • speonjosh

        16,000/50,000,000 = .00032

        In other words, your pet peeve equals less than a drop in the bucket.

        • http://URL Doubting Thomas

          My old grandmother had a saying: watch where the pennies go and the dollars will take care of themselves.

          Same applies here. Stupid spending on Boccee courts means it easier to blow 80 million on an aquatics center.

          • http://URL drax

            Does it?

          • Captain_Obvious

            yes, it does

          • drax

            How?

          • Captain_Obvious

            why don’t you read closer ? Spending $ on niche activities is wasteful since it only serves a limited portion of people.

          • Josh S

            I’m fairly certain the proposed bocce court would not be locked. It would exist and would be available for anyone to enjoy. Just like the rest of the parks in the county. If you don’t choose to avail yourself of the opportunity, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have merit.

          • drax

            I want to know what you mean by spending on one thing makes it easier to spend on another, that’s all.

        • BluemontRes

          I’d much rather see that drop be put to better use – feeding/sheltering the homeless for example.

          • FrenchyB

            Agreed – cross-country bocce is more fun anyway.

    • speonjosh

      If you can find those as line items in the proposed FY14 budget and if they add up to $50 million, maybe. Otherwise, no.

    • KalashniKEV

      No. Not until the corrupt politicians are replaced.

      But it IS a good start…

      • http://URL drax

        If you have evidence of corruption, please notify the authorities.

        • intelligent

          Corruption is easily suspected and difficult to observe unless the corrupt ones are careless for example Congressman Jim Moran. Perhaps many of you have not been here long enough to observe his antics just for one when he was on city business in Europe many years ago and used that time to conduct business for an Alexandria developer. Sure there is more to it than that statement but he was convicted of conflict of interest and then had this conviction overturned by the judge that was the head of the Alexandria Democratic Party. Corruption abounds or would you like to call it influence peddling?

          • drax

            Kev was talking about the County Board, not Moran.

          • KalashniKEV

            You don’t think Fisette opening “Artisphere” represents an improper appropriation of public funds for personal use?

            May I remind you of it’s inaugural event?

          • drax

            Corruption has a specific legal meaning, Kev. Throwing words around that you don’t understand can be hazardous, and destroy what little credibility you may have left.

    • b myers

      Fair minded solution

  • CW

    Actual budget projection available here:

    http://arlington.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=2&event_id=551&meta_id=104776

    The major cost items growing are metro and debt service, which are items which the County is bound to pay obviously. As stated in the article above, it seens that the County adjusted its expenditures for 2013 based on an $18M carryover, and then they promptly forgot that they don’t get that money every year. Whoops.

    • Snorkel

      What’s the annual debt service going to be on the Long Branch pool?

      • speonjosh

        It’s more complicated than that.

        • Venn Diagram

          Sorry, but after seeing you post that for the 193rd time in the past couple of days, you have lost all credibility. Yes, it’s complicated, but if debt service is a good chunk of the growing cost items (to simplify CW’s post), then WHY INCUR MORE DEBT? Even though the measures passed, the board is under no obligation to actually spend the money to add more/new debt – they can defer it for years, like they did for the Cherrydale Fire House.

          • CW

            This is a very true point, and could be a prudent measure by the board. Is it stated in the language how long the option to sell the bonds remains open for? I don’t have a copy right in front of me.

          • Josh S

            Actually, your post explains some of the reasons it is more complicated than what Snorkel seemed to be implying. Namely, there is no “annual debt service” for a “Long Branch pool” as of yet, so it’s not possible to know interest rates, etc.
            Also, it’s not clear to me that there will be a “Long Branch pool” bond issued. So debt service payments won’t really be simply defineable as “Long Branch pool” payments.

            In general, debt service looks like it is already about $50 million a year. Which is one of the bigger line items in the budget, to be sure. However, it’s still only about 5% of the total budget. One should not focus exclusively on debt service as the cause of budget deficits or the best or only place to seek cuts to prevent / cure budget deficits.

          • KalashniKEV

            I don’t want to be held accountable for Drax’s rounding error, and my individual standard is to round all decimals down (even when tipping!), so I can only promise that I can cut spending by 2/3… IF the coin lands on tails (odd #s).

            My policy is that county government return to providing governmental functions and services, and avoid boondoggles and pet projects. I would set up a “Battle Rhythm” of meetings, and lead off each week with an examination of performance metrics on Monday morning. Resources would be allocated to provide the best quality of life for the citizens of Arlington- i.e. one less early morning jogging trail assault vs. 30 less I-66 sticker enforcement tickets.

            Non-essential and poor performing programs would be ended, with the promise to never again overreach. I would win 100% of the “paying attention” vote, for a total of 97 votes in the next general election.

        • Captain_Obvious

          Please explain instead of posting this over and over…

        • KalashniKEV

          It’s very, very simple.

          • drax

            No, things are rarely simple. Sometimes people say they are because they have childish fantasies about how easy things would be, but luckily those people are rarely taken seriously.

          • KalashniKEV

            It is simple. I don’t even need a spreadsheet. I’ve got a calculator on my phone.

            I’m also going to be in town, and off work over the holiday weekend if anyone in the Budget Office would like me to come in and fix their mess. I’ll do it for FREE.

          • Captain_Obvious

            You mean like fantasies of canceling projects already completed ??

          • drax

            Ridiculous fantasies on the Internet do not equal running a county, Kev. This is why your ideas are not listened to.

          • KalashniKEV

            Not fantasy cancellations… the very real kind.

          • Captain_Obvious

            What are your ideas ? You seem to have none…

          • SomeGuy

            KEV, I listen to your ideas, buddy. I don’t always agree with them 100%, but I don’t dismiss you out of hand without searching for some validity in your points. And I’d like to see some of the folks here who prop themselves up as more “tolerant” than the rest of us approach comments that way.

            I’ll add that my listening to you also makes drax wrong. Again.

          • drax

            So, Someguy, you think Kev is realistic about cutting the entire County budget by 67 percent?

            By all means, keep listening to him if you want to. Hope the two of you come up with a great plan.

            In the meantime, don’t say I dismissed him out of hand, because I’ve listened to him plenty and I know where he’s coming from.

          • SomeGuy

            drax, to say, “This is why your ideas are not listened to” suggests you dismiss his ideas as general rule, i.e. you don’t listen to them. But if you don’t want me to “say [you] dismissed him out of hand,” I’ll try to refrain.

            And I made no comment on whether his proposal was realistic.

          • drax

            By listen, I mean take seriously.

      • FrenchyB

        Long Bridge, not Long Branch.

  • nom de guerre

    “During these uncertain economic times, we will have to make some tough choices.” So we have decided to choose 2 streetcar routes, one world class aquatics center, a combination office building/homeless shelter, several million dollar dog parks and sprayparks, public art displays and the Artisphere.

    • CW

      As I understand it, the bond-funded items are completely decoupled from this budget.

      • Snorkel

        Do you mean that this budget understates the problem because it does not include the cost of servicing the debt on the issues that were passed by voters earlier this month?

        • speonjosh

          It does not include the payments on that debt because that debt has not yet been issued. The voters merely authorized the debt, they didn’t cause it to be issued.
          The budget does include approx $50 million in debt payments being made on debt that was already issued – in the past.

          • Captain_Obvious

            It’s more complicated than that.

          • Venn Diagram

            @C_O: +1 (well, actually it should be -25 to 50 million, which is apparently only a small budget problem). Thanks for the laugh.

          • Josh S

            Indeed it is.

      • nom de guerre

        The only bond funded item that I am aware of is the aquatics center. All of the “choices” that I referred to will have to be operated and maintained-that will be included in the budget, just like the Artisphere is now.

    • John Fontain

      +10. I was going to post:

      “During these uncertain economic times, we will have to make some tough choices,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said, “Such as increasing taxes a lot or a hell of a lot.”

      But I like your version better, nom.

  • Suburban Not Urban

    So – library cuts to make sure that the most popular county service expresses the pain and justify’s raising taxes – while continuing special interest giveaways, board member legacy monuments, and tax and spend award winners for the glamour.

    • http://URL GC2

      +100 Don’t blame me, I voted for the non-Democrats and against all but the school bond.

      • brendan

        yeah, I vote for all Democrats on the state and federal levels but refuse to back party endorsed candidates in arlington. what a mess.

        • KalashniKEV

          I would never vote for a Democrat.

          • http://URL GrandstandFan

            We know, Kev.

    • ACDC Hack

      It is the old trick of cutting the useful/legitimate government services — in past times the first things that the government would cut the trash collection.
      Really lame trick

  • JimPB

    NO tax increase(s).

    While the bond issue for the Long Bridge acquatic center passed, that does not obligate ARLCo to proceed with construction. Given the costs not covered by the bond issue and high operating costs for the center, once build and opened, its construction should be put on hold until the budget situation improves substantially and higher priorities have been adequately addressed, e.g., the schools.

    • Snorkel

      Word.

    • http://URL drax

      Future capital improvements are not part of this budget. Cut the pool and you’ll still have the same hole in the budget.

      • http://URL Doubting Thomas

        Where does money come from to pay for the past capital expenditures? Here’s a hint…your wallet.

        • http://URL drax

          So to balance the budget we should cancel projects we’ve already completed? Genius! Now all we need is a time machine.

          • http://URL Doubting Thomas

            Please don’t tell me you are that obtuse.

          • http://URL drax

            Okay, I won’t.

            Got something substantive to add, or are we done?

          • Venn Diagram

            HE would never tell you that, but I will. He most definitely IS that obtuse.

          • Captain_Obvious

            So asking if we should cancel projects we’ve already completed in your most condescending way is substantive ???

          • drax

            Yes, it’s substantive.

          • Captain_Obvious

            No its not, you’re making comments based on fantasy.

          • drax

            I responded to his comment by criticizing the feasibility of his suggestion. That’s substance, and reality vs. fantasy.

            If you want to explain why you think I’m wrong – substantively – go ahead. Otherwise this is a waste of time.

          • Captain_Obvious

            oh you don’t like it when someone criticizes every comment you make ?

            I have no clue whether you are right or wrong and don’t really care, but responding with “we should cancel projects we’ve already completed” is childish and ignorant.

          • drax

            Yeah, Capt. you keep saying that. But I say it’s not.

            So either step up and explain why, or drop the subject.

          • Captain_Obvious

            Why ? Cause you are wrong. Again, take your own advice for once…step up and explain why instead of being disagreeable all the time.

          • drax

            Keep banging your head against the wall, eventually the pain will stop.

          • Captain_Obvious

            Unfortunately, it won’t stop you from being condescending and thinking you’re right all the time.

          • drax

            I think I’m right until someone explains why they think I’m not. Everyone is like that, not just me.

            So when are you going to explain why I’m wrong instead of just telling me I am, with your own condescending insults?

            Substance is appreciated. You’ve offered none.

      • Wayne Kubicki

        Not quite so – some of the increased debt service costs projected for FY14 are to cover the debt service on at least some of the new bonds for the aquatics center. Those bonds would be sold next spring.

        • westover

          Thank you for adding a little bit of facts to this.

    • drax

      I agree – no need to proceed with the pool.

  • http://URL Rupert

    Tax and spend libs at their worst.

    • brendan

      no… these aren’t liberals/democrats/socialists whatever… these are irresponsible clowns thinking they’re playing simcity.

  • brendan

    what clowns… can we please get rid of the board/manager?

    I’d like to see every budget cut and tax increase justified against the cost of building an indoor lazy river.

  • scapegoating again

    I love how the County planners are still blaming BRAC for revenue losses as if it was just sprung on them last week. Just like a few years back when they were surprised to find out property values “suddenly” stopped increasing 20% a year!!!

    • http://URL Doubting Thomas

      It is pretty easy to be surprised when you close your eyes and put your hands over ears while yelling “Spoilers!”

    • John Fontain

      How does BRAC impact Arlington’s revenues?

      • WeiQiang

        Occupancy in leased spaces and related sales (parking, food, gas) all generate tax revenue. Less occupancy = less revenue. There are 3-4 completely empty buildings in Crystal City. Some are being redeveloped to draw new occupants, but in the meantime the square footage is not generated revenue or taxes.

        • John Fontain

          I understand a possible reduction in taxes collected on parking, food sales, etc., but the bulk of the taxes come from property taxes and the taxes are collected whether the building is full of tenants or not, right?

          For some reason, I think the BRAC rationale is largely a red herring. Maybe I’m wrong.

          • Whitney Wilson

            Actually, assessments for commercial buildings are based at least in part on rental revenues, so when theater is soft, assessments – and tax revenue – go down.

          • John Fontain

            Here is a half empty building in Crystal City. The assessment is up from last year and the year before despite the 50 percent occupancy rate:

            http://www.co.arlington.va.us/Departments/RealEstate/reassessments/scripts/Inquiry.asp?action=view&lrsn=53777

            Can you provide support for the assertion that assessments are based (in part) on rental revenues? Thanks.

  • Well

    As long as the homeless population is ok then I’m all for raising taxes as much as possible. Let’s get that $25 million homeless shelter built!

    That was sarcasm.

    • Venn Diagram

      Sorry – if that was sarcasm, you should have used the approved Arlnow sarcasticon™ to properly convey your disdain

  • bobbytiger

    Whatever the County Board wants, the County Board Gets.
    It’s wrong of course, but that’s the way it is. Now, can I vote “Yes” on more bond issues?

    • Josh S

      Yes, that’s generally how it works. How is it wrong?

  • http://URL Swervin

    They audacity of the board members leaves me stunned every time! Budget shortfalls? No problem! Spend on they unneccessary anyway and raise taxes! Disgusting!!

  • http://URL Doubting Thomas

    I’m just glad this came out prior to the election so people will be able to make an informed decision….wait, the election is over and this is coming out now.

    The only thing that surprises me is this came out before RE taxes assessments have been issued.

    • http://URL ARL-VA

      Actually this DID come out before the election. There was an ARLnow post about the 2013 budget situation.

    • drax

      It came out a few weeks before the election. There was even a story here on ArlNow about it.

      Just because you don’t know something doesn’t mean people around you don’t.

      • Floyd

        Depends on what you mean by “it”. The news about the budget deficit came out a couple weeks ago. The board conveniently waited until after the election to tell us they want to raise taxes.

        Not that it matters much, only one of them was on the ballot, and they never put more than a couple in jeopardy in any given election cycle. Some electoral reform in Arlington would be welcome.

        • drax

          The board hasn’t said it wants to raise taxes yet. It’s just something on the table, which anyone would expect.

  • http://URL NIMBY The Chicken

    The democrat apologists are hilarious on this story. Fact of the matter is, the county spends too much money on non-essential, feel-good passion projects and not enough time fulfilling basic governmental duties. They can’t even keep the roads paved where I live. Stop dying the bike lanes, stop erecting and painting speed humps, stop pressing the fake brick pattern into streets to start. Use more competitive bidding. Has anyone driven on the beltway lately? VA Paving didn’t do it, so it’s a smooth ride. Request Forsythe use smaller buses on underperforming art routes to save on fuel, lowering the cost to the county. If the artisphere is here to stay, consider other options for the Maury school space on Wilson Blvd. Temporary bocce courts in Ballston and Bluemont? That garage is 8 levels and never more than 2/3 full, clear off a corner of a level and make an outdoor games space.

    And can someone tell me why the smallest county in America needs a billion dollar budget?

    • http://URL drax

      Okay, so you just saved us maybe half a million, Mr. Conservative. You’ve got a long way to go, for little gain.

      • Captain_Obvious

        You really priced all that out? I find that hard to believe.

        • http://URL drax

          No, I just guessed. But obviously neither has NIMBY the Chicken, that’s my point.

          • NIMBY The Chicken

            How come when Democrats propose ideas to chip away at a defecit it’s parade worthy, and when Republicans do it it’s mocked? The point is to chip away at non-essentials to get the ball rolling. Massive cuts all at once wouldn’t be good for anyone.

          • drax

            I don’t know what you’re talking about with parade worthy. I’m not talking about Democrats or Republicans, I’m talking about you and your ideas. They don’t appear to come close to solving the problem.

          • Captain_Obvious

            At least Nimby has ideas and contributes something substantive.

          • NIMBY The Chicken

            The point is to chip away at non-essentials to get the ball rolling. Massive cuts all at once wouldn’t be good for anyone.

          • drax

            Okay, get the ball rolling.

            Then what?

          • NIMBY The Chicken

            Then keep looking! I just listed non-essentials in the DES and facilities management, I’m sure APS has some redundancies, HHR has some. 50 million dollars on a 1 billion+ budget is 4.7%. I’m sure other departments could find money pits and, in the spirit of the Arlington Way, fill it with crappy asphalt. It’ll be bumpy, but it will be filled.

          • Captain_Obvious

            You’re wasting your time Nimby, he doesn’t care what you have to say, he only cares in trying to disagree with you or disprove your point somehow…It’s the d-roo way !

          • drax

            Okay, NIMBY. That’s pretty much what’s going to happen.

          • VotersForChange

            He’s a “topper”. No matter what you say, he’s got some comeback on top of you. Completely vacant, rhetorical toppers, but there it is none the less.

        • Venn Diagram

          It’s more complicated than that.

      • http://URL Rick

        You think selling the Maury school would net half a million dollars?

      • KalashniKEV

        The gain is not just mathematical- it is Good to fix what is broken, and doing the above would send a message to the vanity project set that public funds are not unlimited to finance their personal whims and desires… in fact, there should be ZERO public funds available for such activity.

    • KalashniKEV

      Damn. That was a Truth Bomb.

      • Josh S

        Not much truth there – it was mostly a rant and full of preferences and anecdotal observations.

        “Fact of the matter is, the county spends too much money on non-essential, feel-good passion projects and not enough time fulfilling basic governmental duties.”

        It’s not even internally consistent – “money” and “time”, although popularly connected, are not the same thing.

        And you can’t really start an argument “fact of the matter” and follow up with “too much.”

        • NIMBY The Chicken

          Symantic attacks are for those who want to make a counterpoint, but can’t. We dont NEED green bike lanes, or faux-brick imprints with maroon paint, or another set of speed humps. All of those things take time away from essential DES projects, and cost money to do. We don’t NEED two art centers on the same street, especially when both are in commercial corridors where the land/rent is probably worth more than the value of the services provided. We dont NEED to continue to pay engineers with APS that green-light a 100 percent rebuild of a school that still requires trailers. 50 million shouldn’t be hard, but it certainly won’t be easy. My original point stands that chipping away at the non-essentials will get the fiscal responsibility ball rolling.

          • drax

            Says you.

            Meanwhile, getting the ball rolling is nice, but it only puts a dent in the problem. What next?

          • Captain_Obvious

            Its not his job to figure out what next.

          • Josh S

            What is his job then? To stand on the sidelines, complaining anonymously?

          • NIMBY The Chicken

            There’s not much anonymous about a guy in a chicken suit running around. Other than the mask on my face. I missed the part where you had an idea other than criticizing people offering solutions though, I’ll just blame that on the mask.

          • WeiQiang

            if we try to begin this discussion with lopping off entire intiatives or programs, i think we ignore the fact that some significant portion of the ArlCo population [not necesarily represented by ArlNow posters] finds value in a particular initiative or program. with a potential shortfall of 5%, give or take, this is a gap that can be easily closed with a round of leaning or efficiency-taking.

            the longer term question is, “Are we paying for what we value most?” i would argue that your opinion of what is NEEDed or not is interesting but not conclusive. if we began with a clear understanding of what County residents really value (need/want) – and voting is not a great means of assessing this – and then lean out the operations that support those valued operations, case studies suggest that, in enterprises of the size of ArlCo, we could reduce the budget by 10-15% and maintain a first-class level of service.

            … and i can still get my iconic acquatique centre.

          • drax

            I didn’t say it was his job. I just asked him a question, after saying that his proposal didn’t solve the problem.

          • Captain_Obvious

            Josh S., yes, just like everyone else on here.

        • Captain_Obvious

          Its more complicated than that.

    • http://URL Scooter

      Virginia Paving did to the paving work on the Beltway. Their equipment was on site doing the work.

    • brown before green

      Q: “And can someone tell me why the smallest county in America needs a billion dollar budget?”

      A: Um, because geographically we may be small in area, but Arlington is home to 215,000 people, and we have a daytime population of 250,000? Because we’re one of the 100 largest ‘cities’ in the U.S.?

      • KalashniKEV

        What’s all that got to do with a Public Pool?

  • tom smart

    it would be nice if the people who make comments on here made up the majority of the arlington voters so we could vote these clowns out of office. I’ve seen this tax and overspend for 30 years that I’ve lived here. it will never change unless the people rise up and protest in the streets. but that will never happen. if the county manager were in a corporation and gave this news to the CEO and shareholders, she’d be out on her rear in about 2 seconds. much less 30 years of this horse krapt. it’s disgusting.

    • http://URL drax

      Apparently a majority of voters are, you know, happy with it. So either they have a different judgment than you about what they think should be taxed and spent, or they are all stupid idiots and you’re the only smart one, smart.

      • Captain_Obvious

        How do you know they are actually happy with it?

        • http://URL drax

          They keep sending the same people back into office. I don’t know for certain if that means they are happy with it, but it’s mighty good evidence. I used the word “apparently” just for you.

          • SomeGuy

            It could also be evidence that they’re not well-informed.

          • drax

            Or their critics could be not well-informed, including you. Just as possible. In other words, that’s a completely worthless objection. Try something else.

          • Captain_Obvious

            yea, what “SomeGuy” said…

          • Josh S

            Enough with the tired “not well informed” BS. I can’t believe I get the grief for being the condescending one around here.

            Grow. Up.

            Plenty of reasonable, well-educated, capable people have different opinions than you. That’s it. It’s not that you are better infomed than them.

          • drax

            Going around saying “if you disagree with me, you’re probably just stupid” tends to not convince people to agree with you. Just FYI.

          • SomeGuy

            Good points, especially from drax. No one’s ever uninformed, and drax would never condescend:
            http://www.arlnow.com/2012/11/19/county-budget-cuts-tax-hikes-looming/#comment-273910

          • Captain_Obvious

            take your own advice, d-roo…you do the same thing. You try to make people feel stupid constantly on here.

          • drax

            Oh, I can be condescending, but only when I think there’s good reason. Just disagreeing with me about something isn’t a good reason.

          • SomeGuy

            drax, I find it interesting that you’ll hold your conclusion out as fact, I.e. that because people elected their officials, the only logical conclusion is that the people are thrilled with their leadership. Yet you’ll call my comment “worthless” for posing another plausible conclusion.

            In other words, you’re asking me to accept your conclusion as fact because it’s loosely “apparent” to you that you’re correct. But you won’t even consider that my conclusion could also have some validity (when In fact, you found a user who bolstered my point in the comment in referenced).

            You think you’re being intelligent by dismissing my “what-if” scenario, but you’re really just demonstrating your intolerance toward a hypothesis that doesn’t conform to what’s “apparent” in your brilliant eye’s mind.

          • Captain_Obvious

            wow, you truly don’t get it. Pot, meet kettle.

          • Captain_Obvious

            Bingo ! and “SomeGuy” nailed it exactly.

          • drax

            So our choices are:

            1. The reelection of our leaders means the people are probably happy with them.
            2. The reelection of our leaders means they people are idiots.

            Is that it?

          • SomeGuy

            No, drax, those aren’t the only options. But your small-mindedness in suggesting so is now on display.

            There are plenty of factors in play. I.e., As some might say, “it’s more complicated than that.”

            But do you see how I can admit that my hypothesis, despite being entirely relevant, may not be the absolutely and only correct conclusion? I even concede that some people like the current board. The fact that you shill for them daily is good evidence of that.

          • drax

            I’m asking you to accept my conclusion because it makes alot more sense.

          • Captain_Obvious

            Why are those our choices ? That’s not what SomeGuy is saying, he’s just pointing out the flaws in your arguments like you try to do to others…see how that works ?

          • drax

            Those are the choices between my view and SomeGuy’s.

            I think mine makes alot more sense. Also alot less, uh, condescending to most voters in Arlington.

          • Josh S

            Actually, what drax said was “They keep sending the same people back into office. I don’t know for certain if that means they are happy with it, but it’s mighty good evidence. I used the word “apparently” just for you.”
            It’s a fairly qualified statement and hardly the absolute declaration that someguy claims it is.

          • Captain_Obvious

            Your conclusion has “probably” in it. Generalizations are great, especially when you can tell people your generalizations make more sense than others.

          • SomeGuy

            Josh S., drax dismissed my hypothesis as worthless. Therefore he implied that my hypothesis is absolutely wrong. You did the pretty much the same thing in your comment at 9:31. The only absoluteness I was trying to convey is that drax (and you) should absolutely consider that viewpoints other than his own might have some truth in them.

            Or you can argue the Arlington is home to only high-information voters, which you and drax have both been doing, unconvincingly, since 8:52 am.

          • wild alot

            Drax cares, Alot.

  • KalashniKEV

    Wait, wait, wait… didn’t I just hear we were building a Bum Mansion?

    • Josh S

      If you did, you heard wrong.

      • KalashniKEV

        “Ain’t no heaven for a Bum,
        That’s why we need to build a Bum mansion
        That’s the only place where Bums get in free, but you can’t have to pee…
        (Just do it on the sidewalk, homey)
        … at Bum mansion!”
        - K-PAC

        • WeiQiang

          can the next verse tie in bottles of pee in Metro tunnels? i’m thinking a line that goes something like, “Yellow line … mellow line … talkin’ ’bout some bum wine”

          • KalashniKEV

            Much nicer than South Arlington- a place of true Bliss,
            So close to DC Metro, where I can offload my bottles of P***,
            I’ve got lazy days and leisure in this life of mine,
            I’m on cupcakes and micro brew now- no Bum wine,
            Prayin’ hard for more free entitlements, and higher taxes for the suckas,
            ‘aint no better place than Arlington to be a BUM, MuthaF*****!!!
            Me and my DC Bums- we found a place to roll-on,
            We comin’ to take yo’ s*** like GENGHIS KHAN!!!

          • KalashniKEV

            In case anyone hasn’t picked up yet, this is to the tune of “Thugz Mansion” by 2PAC.

          • drax

            Gee, thanks, Kev, we were all wondering.

          • KalashniKEV

            Hey… I don’t just ASSume that you all have 90′s hip hop playing in your head as the soundtrack to your lives all-day-long…

            I want to make a joke on you Drax, but I really don’t know where to go. I have no idea what kind of music you would listen to… or if you even have genuine “thoughts” enter your head.

            What kind of jamz are you getting down to?

  • http://URL 40year resident

    All of the above comments are right on, so no need on my part to add to them. I do ask that you please write each board member as I just did and express your opinion. You do matter. This time, let’s not roll over for another tax hike to fund unnecessary expenditures. Thanks.

  • http://URL The Jimmy

    Funny how a projected $25-50 million budget gap comes out two weeks after the election. Who knew??

    • http://URL drax

      Everyone knew, weeks before the election.

      http://www.arlnow.com/2012/10/26/arlington-bracing-for-major-budget-shortfall-next-year/

      Try to keep up.

      Another failed conspiracy theory.

    • ACDC Hack

      They ALWAYS time it like this …..somethings never change.
      They hope that the voters will have forgotten by the next election and guess what….they always seem have and zombie like pull the lever next to the candidate with the “d” by their name.

      • drax

        Oops, Hack, your conspiracy theory is blown.

        They released it just BEFORE the election. It was even discussed on ArlNow.

        Please go back to hunting UFOs or whatever.

  • http://URL Greg

    Can you imagine what these clowns would do if they didn’t live in an area with some of the highest property values in the US? We’d be in a 1/4 billion dollar hole.

  • http://URL G::TheNativeArlingtonian

    And some how we have the millions of dollars to buy an office building and renovate it for a homeless shelter. Right….

  • Steve

    I love Arlington and the quality of life here. But the Board’s entire worldview rests on the idea of “what do we spend on next?” It would be refreshing if just once, they thought about ways tomsave, or realized that while we have always been economically lucky here, bad times can come to the County,mand that haveing such a “rainy day” mindset would not hurt a bit.

  • Scott

    Can the tax increases be given only to the idiots who continue to vote yes on every bond issue measure at the poles.

    • drax

      Sure, as long as those who don’t are banned from using facilities the bond issue supported. So your kids can’t go to any new schools and you can’t drive across new bridges, for instance.

      • KalashniKEV

        DEAL!
        I’ll take a personal ban from: ArtisPhere, any and all Public Pools, antiquated and nonviable mass transit options (regardless of their level of QUAINT CHARM), the Velikolepniyy Escuela de la Gente, the Bum Mansion… and that’s just a start.

        I’m waiting for my rebate check. I want it printed 3′x6′ and I want Fisette to deliver it to my house.
        (Is his whole checkbook really that big?)

        • drax

          Doesn’t work that way, Kev. You are banned from the benefits of those things, even if they are indirect. For instance, one bum will be excluded from the mansion, and will be sent to sleep on your front porch instead.

          • KalashniKEV

            Well I feel sorry for him then- I’ve pre-urinated there so he can’t get it first. :)

          • drax

            Peeing on your own porch for spite – yeah, that sums you up pretty well.

          • KalashniKEV

            Yup. They think they can mark their turf here?

            Nope. It’s mine. I own it.

            (That goes for you too, McPuppo!)

      • Scott

        I’ll take that ban. My kids will never use the Aquatic Center (plenty of other options already available), they’ll go to their neighborhood schools that are already built, I’ll never ride the Columbia Pike trolley, I haven’t used Metro in 6 years, and I promise not to eat or sleep at the homeless shelter.
        Now give me my rebate check.

        • drax

          But you have to quit your job, because people you work with ride Metro to work and so that benefits your employer even if you don’t use it. And your kids will have less crowded schools without jamming 40 kids into a classroom, so they will have to quit school and be home-schooled with 37 or 38 friends in one room. And you will have to have a homeless guy sleeping on your lawn. And you can’t ever visit any of the new shops or restaurants that result from the trolley. So this is going to get complicated, trying to opt out of society.

          • Captain_Obvious

            opting out of society is not the same thing as being banned from certain things. This fantasy reality game is so much fun.

          • drax

            Yes, it’s a fantasy, because you can’t possibly be banned from certain things and not still reap some benefits.

          • Captain_Obvious

            Really ? How will I benefit if I am banned from the aquatic center and the trolley ? I already never go near those areas of Arlington anyway.

  • math is fun!

    County Board is required by law to balance budget. They use a simple formula to comply with that statutory requirement … spend all the money that comes in (plus anything that might have been left over from prior period). Vloia!!! budget is balanced!

  • NotSurprising

    Spending is out of control in Arlington, period! It has been for a long time and with big brother across the river doing the same thing I believe the board think’s it’s ok. I just love those fancy new concrete load bearing walls being put up along rt 50, instead of your basic low cost walls Arlington has to purchase ones with fancy designs on them, way to spend our tax money and therefore have to increase taxes. Also, I don’t think people realize when they vote ‘yes’ for the bond referrendums for “improvements” that those bonds have to be paid back with our tax money. Arlington was once a great place to grow up in, now can’t wait to get out.

    • drax

      Please tell us how much more those walls cost than “regular” walls.

      Please tell us how you know that most voters don’t understand how bonds work too.

      You can’t wait to get out? Neither can we.

      • NotSurprising

        They cost more, does it matter how much more? You sounds like the board, maybe you should run for office.

        I’ve lived here all my life and have spoken with many people, would you like names?

        Glad you can’t wait to get out either!

        • drax

          Do they cost more at all? How do you know? Did you look up the prices?

          You know everyone who lives here and have talked in detail about their understanding of bonds?

          You don’t know these things. You are making them up. I don’t accept that. Sorry. I have higher standards.

          • Captain_Obvious

            Your standards are “you are wrong and I am right”…pretty high standards there.

          • drax

            I never once said I was right about anything. I said I want him to prove that HE is right, and not just assume it.

            See the difference?

            You can’t just make up facts and expect people to just accept it. Unless those people are lazy and gullible, which I’m not.

          • Captain_Obvious

            I don’t care about this instance and I do see the difference. Your M.O. is brilliant…ask people to prove themselves without EVER offering your own opinions, just disagree.

    • KalashniKEV

      Slightly off topic, but those walls are ugly! And these are the people who are also against murals???

      I want them torn down.

      • CW

        Speaking of ugly walls, what’s up with the wilson blvd substation fence? It looks cool upon approach, but then when you get right up to it, you see that the slats are oriented perpendicular to the road, so you get a lovely view of all the transformers as you pass by. What is the point of the fence then?

        • drax

          I am guessing it’s for ventilation, but that’s complete speculation.

        • Book Lover

          From the County’s press release: “Fehrmann’s design, a continuous perimeter treatment of ipe wood and steel, operates as a motion filter creating zones of transparency with the effect that no two views of the substation are the same.”

          The wood slats are on springs, so they’re not always perpendicular to the road. I’m pretty sure this was discussed on a previous ArlNow thread, but I can’t find it easily.

      • Notsurprising

        Right On!

    • Josh S

      “Load bearing”??!!!

      :-)

      • WeiQiang

        pervy

    • Josh S

      PS. The Route 50 project is not paid for by Arlington County.

  • fourmilerunner

    Can drax have his own blog? 121 comments on this story and 21 are his. Or maybe feed him some material so he’s funny like KalashniKEV .

    • Quoth the Raven

      Come on – who doesn’t like an endless series of snarky, unhelpful comments?!?!?

      • WeiQiang

        i’d estamate [full disclosure: i have no statistics or research] that about 5% of the comments fall outside of the snarky or unhelpful categories. be careful what you ask for.

    • JamesE

      I’m convinced he is actually Zimmerman

      • John Fontain

        All kidding aside, I’ve never understood drax or josh s. – they both worship practically every move made by the County and defend the Board’s actions no matter what. It is really odd.

        • drax

          No I don’t.

          You just think that because most of the comments here consist of bashing county actions, sometimes using lazy thinking. I like to confront lazy thinking. I do the same when I see lazy thinking used against the other side too – I just don’t see that very often here because the Dems are in charge and nobody comes here to bash Republicans.

          I do tend to agree with county actions, but I hardly “worship” them.

          • Captain_Obvious

            Do you ever confront yourself ?

        • Quoth the Raven

          Could be that they just enjoy taking a contrary position.

          • Josh S

            Wellll, there *might* be a little of that, as well…..

          • drax

            No I don’t.

            ;)

        • Josh S

          Generally, I don’t have a fully formed opinion of the Board’s individual actions. However, I do object to those who pretend to know better but are incapable of making a coherent argument. And those who simply reject everything because it either A) comes from people who are Democrats or B) comes from people who are bureaucrats.
          Also, what I find to be really odd is people who get so worked up in their anger about this or that when, in general, we have life so good in Arlington.

          • drax

            That is exactly my view too, Josh. I could have written that myself. No wonder people think we’re the same person sometimes.

          • Anit-Drax

            Prove it! Prove it! Ah ha, you cannot, and therefore you fail.

  • WeiQiang

    I’ll do my part … take my sprayground!

  • Reality Interferes

    Until the Board is elected by districts rather than at-large, the never-ending borrowing and spending will continue unabated. Having all Board members (in district elections) stand for election at the same time will also help bring some sanity to the Board. Currently, the at-large vote dilution system and the elect only 1 or 2 at a time protects the incumbents from serious challenge.

  • South Awwlington

    Speaking of our benevolent County Board…did anyone catch the hissy fit over Affordable Housing Tejada and Zimmerman spiraled into Saturday and then continue with on Monday? After watching this latest episode, I am convinced NOTHING will ever be enough for these people. Almost every service provided by the County is being scaled back due to an uncertain financial future and they want to triple the annual AHIF contribution.

    It is time to start prioritizing essential services and scaling the niceties. We are already making substantial contributions to the housing program but clearly it isn’t enough – we have to continually be pushed for more, more, more.

  • South Awwlington

    Speaking of our benevolent County Board…did anyone catch the hissy fit over Affordable Housing Tejada and Zimmerman spiraled into Saturday and then continue with on Monday? After watching this latest episode, I am convinced NOTHING will ever be enough for these people. Almost every service provided by the County is being scaled back due to an uncertain financial future and they want to triple the annual AHIF contribution.

    It is time to start prioritizing essential services and scaling the niceties. We are already making substantial contributions to the housing program but clearly it isn’t enough – we have to continually be pushed for more, more, more.

    It is nice to see a majority on the Board standing up to the minority even though the priorities of the Chair were questioned for two days by the sore losers club.- no ver professional boys. God help us all if Tejada becomes chair. We will be bankrupt.

    • KalashniKEV

      The Housing Program is not a “nicety”- it’s amoral and possibly criminal.

      Also, Tejada is on his way out, IMO. Too much crazy, even for this “progressive” locale…

  • Deirdre

    This has got to stop. More cuts and tax increases while the county persists in pushing an agenda of unnecessary projects, including the aquatic center, the streetcar, endless street and curb projects. Disturbing as this is, does it surprise anyone? We get what we vote for.

    • drax

      Apparently to those who vote for it, it’s not disturbing either. People can disagree about priorities, you know.

      • Reality

        Assume facts, but that is Drax’s usual MO.

        • drax

          I”m not assuming facts. I’m the one who calls others out for that.

  • Brian K

    How much does the Artisphere cost a year? Obviously not 25 million, but for christs sake shut it down.

    It would be a good, symbolic start

    • brown before green

      Gadzooks, please leave Christ out of it.

      • Jesus Christ

        Whatever, I’m used to it.

        • Josh S

          See, we know this is an imposter, because Christ would never say “Whatever…”

          • Jesus Christ

            But I just did, dude.

            What, dost thou wish me speaketh in the tongue of King James?

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