Budget Would Raise Taxes, Slash Community Policing

The county’s proposed budget for 2011 would raise taxes on the average Arlington family by $235 and — among other cuts — halve the county’s community policing force.

Acting County Manager Barbara Donnellan revealed her FY 2011 budget proposal at a county board meeting Wednesday. Facing a $65 million budget deficit, Donnellan said tough decisions needed to be made.

“My proposed budget includes some hard choices that will impact services in most areas across the community,” Donnellan said. “What I have tried to do is to cut only those things that will not change the values of our community or our basic expectations of responsible government.”

Donnellan, following guidance from the county board, gave priority to funding affordable housing, schools, and the social safety net at levels equal to or greater than the current budget. Also following the board’s guidance, Donnellan plugged half of the county’s $65 million budget deficit with spending cuts, and the other half with increases in revenue.

The budget would increase county revenues by raising the real estate tax 6.7 cents for every $100 of value. That, combined with other, more incremental increases in taxes and fees, would raise the average family’s county tax burden by nearly 4 percent, or $235. Business tax rates will remain unchanged.

The proposed budget slashes funding for the community policing. The equivalent of 11 full-time positions, or half the police department’s community policing force, will be cut. A fire department heavy rescue unit, approximately 12 full-time positions, will be eliminated. And three Office of Emergency Management positions — the deputy director and the liaisons for the police and fire departments — will be done away with.

Other proposed cuts include:

  • Dramatically reduced hours at libraries (9 fewer hours per week at Arlington Central Library, and one fewer day per week at most branches).
  • Reduced hours of operations at various parks and recreation facilities.
  • Reduced frequency of grass mowing at parks and other facilities.
  • Approximately $1.5 million in cuts to the Department of Environmental Services, the county agency that handles snow removal and other county maintenance projects. DES has gone through $3.8 million in cuts since 2009.

A total of nearly 90 staff positions would be eliminated under Donnellan’s budget, according to a county press release.  All but 20 of those positions are vacant.

All told, spending would decrease 0.5%, or $5 million, compared to the current budget.

Donnellan is expected to formally present the budget during a board meeting this Saturday at 8:30 AM. The public will get a chance to comment on the proposal during a series of public hearings scheduled for the end of March.

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