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Board Raises Tax Rate To Preserve Services

by ARLnow.com April 26, 2010 at 7:56 am 2,153 9 Comments

The Arlington County Board unanimously approved a $959.9 million FY 2011 budget on Saturday. The budget includes a 8.3 cent property tax rate hike, 24 percent higher than the recommended 6.7 cent increase in the county manager’s proposed budget.

Together with fee increases totaling about $71 a year, the tax burden on the average household will increase by about $346 per year.

Arlington’s residential property tax burden will now total $0.958 cents per $100 of assessed value, which is still lower than most neighboring jurisdictions.

The board said it was responding to public concern over some of the spending cuts outlined in the county manager’s budget. Dozens of people spoke out against many of the cuts at public budget hearings, although the majority of speakers at a separate tax rate hearing spoke out against raising taxes.

Among the line items rescued from the chopping block as a result of the tax hike:

  • Community policing
  • The second of the fire department’s two heavy rescue units
  • Emergency management personnel
  • Merit pay raises for county staff
  • Metro funding increase
  • The Aurora Hills and Lee senior centers
  • Sunday hours at the Central Library
  • Funding for library materials, such as periodicals
  • Park maintenance and nature centers
  • Partial funding of non-profit organizations, arts grants

“This budget reflects the values of our community,” County Board Chairman Jay Fisette said in a statement. “We listened to residents and acted to preserve core services and our quality of life. We have also been fiscally prudent, making deep and sometimes painful cuts that affected services and reduced staff. This budget ensures Arlington’s fiscal sustainability while protecting the most vulnerable among us.”

Read more about the budget from the Washington Post or the county’s website.

  • Fat Kid.

    How else can we give millions to churches and spend $600,000+ per unit of affordable housing without raising taxes?

    I’m a solid liberal, but this county board is a bunch of crooks.

  • John

    While your article is accurate in that Arlington has a lower tax rate, what you fail to say is that because our home values are higher we pay more in taxes than someone who lives in Fairfax County.

    What do we get for all of this, not a thing. The public safety cuts were simply put out there to get people all fired up to accept a tax increase. The old Washington Monument strategy. If we had a County Board that was actually afraid of the electorate, hard decisions would have been made, fat cut, and the tax rate a lot lower than it is today.

    • MB

      What do we get for all of this, not a thing

      That’s a very curious definition of “not a thing” you must be working with. I’m sure that if you’d have just shown up to the budget meetings and revealed this wondrous bit of information, we need not have spent the past few months wasting all of our time trying to prioritize the county budget.

      • Brendan

        you mean something tangible like… speed bumps? or a 2,000 sq. foot kitchen in county offices w/ granite counter tops? or how about spending $666,000 per affordable housing unit? Yes – we are getting something, ripped off. This whole charade of ‘oh, well we have the best schools in the country’ is such bs. There isn’t a performance metric that can accurately asses school performance in a county with more advanced degrees than people.

        http://askthecounty.com/

        • MB

          Or, Brendan, you could grow up and consider the County budget as a whole. I’m sure that would put a crimp in your performance art attempt here, but at one point you will realize that most of us like to live in communities that act like communities, and not clown around about them so they can earn some resume lines. So I’ll kindly invite you to bugger off until you can realize that.

          • brendan

            hey there buddy, put down the bottle…

    • Thes

      John and others are fond of responding to our lower tax rate with this “higher home values” argument. But it is it completely invalid — the point is that a $500,000 home in Arlington pays about $500 less per year in taxes than does a $500,000 home in Fairfax. John is simply saying that, proportionately speaking, Arlington has more million-dollar homes than does Fairfax. But that has nothing to do with the tax burden. Sell your home, buy the same priced home elsewhere, and you will pay more taxes, and probably have a longer, harder, more congested commute and trip to the grocery store, too.

  • Disappointed

    My main problem with this tax rate hike is that the board had basically set a budget forth that relied on house prices constantly going up. As if the housing bubble would continue ad infinitum. Something like 80% of county revenue is real estate property taxes and when prices sank so did their tax receipts.

    Now we not only suffer for an equation that wasn’t feasible in any reasonable interpretation of math or economics, but we also have to take a hit on our property values at the same time. This is the kind lackadaisical foresight that crashed California, gutted Greece and is bankrupting the banks.

    I really hope they don’t think they can keep raising taxes to make up for inflation and lower tax receipts. Another problem that’s not being widely mentioned is many people (about 1/10) are in default if not foreclosure. Obviously they are paying $0 in property taxes. Guess who pays the difference? Apparently you and I.

    • Thes

      I don’t think it’s true that people in default/foreclosure pay 0$ in taxes. The tax bill runs with the property. The new buyer owes the back taxes, with interest. The government gets paid before the mortgage bank does. Only if the tax burden alone exceeds the entire value of the property (a rare event, I suspect), does the County lose money in the long run. Also, I don’t think that 1/10 of Arlington homeowners are in default or foreclosure.

      Arlington has a AAA bond rating in part because financial experts believe that Arlington still has a very, very strong tax base that could support significantly higher taxes if needed.

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