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Board Instructs Manager to Restrain Spending

by ARLnow.com October 25, 2010 at 10:31 am 2,860 22 Comments

“We are lucky to be Arlington,” county manager Barbara Donnellan said, kicking off the board’s initial guidance for the fiscal year 2012 budget.

Donnellan was referring to the fact that property values — and, thus, tax collections — have stabilized in Arlington, while other local communities continue to feel the pinch from the recession.

Even with a cautiously optimistic outlook, however, the county is still staring down a $25-35 million budget shortfall for FY 2012.

Reflecting the continued financial pressures, the board on Saturday issued budget guidance to Donnellan that was conservative in tone.

The board asked Donnellan to limit budget growth to 1.14 percent — the rate of inflation. The limit does not apply to additional spending required by the school system and as a result of the county’s commitment to four current capital projects (including a new fire station, Long Bridge Park, and the Mary Marshall Assisted Living Residence).

Donnellan expects capital projects to cost an additional $2.5 million, increases in employee compensation to cost $12.7 million, and post-employment benefits to cost an additional $2.1 million. The cost of additional student enrollment is expected to cost $8.6 million.

Donnellan says the county will likely collect an additional $13.8 million in revenue, based largely on inflation.

The board instructed Donnellan to find “any efficiencies or duplication that may exist in County programs,” as a way to save money. It also instructed Donnellan to add no new positions or programs, unless a dedicated funding source or a net cost savings can be identified.

At the same time, the board asked Donnellan to continue investing in affordable housing while preserving the “safety net for those in need,” as well as public safety and health protections.

“This guidance reflects the Board’s desire to tightly constrain spending growth in uncertain economic times, while acknowledging that there is a need for some additional spending to fulfill our previous commitments to projects, and to support our public schools,” board chairman Jay Fisette said in a statement.

The board approved the guidance by a vote of 5-0.

Donnellan will present her proposed FY 2012 budget to the board in February.

  • Arlington Resident

    Hot air.

  • Lou

    Yeah, they are lucky to be in Arlington for a lot of reasons.

  • charlie

    this is why she is manager — she is letting the board tell her what to do. As opposed to Mr. Brown who had the nerve to tell the board that THEY had to restrain spending. Get it folks?

    • Alan H

      @charlie – of course the Board is directing the Manager – that’s their job – not to mention that overseeing the County Budget is a key responsibility of the Board. No need for conspiracy theories – this is just another step in the annual budget process. Every fall the County Board provides guidance to the County Manager on the parameters the Manager can use in developing the budget. The County Manager will then produce a draft budget this winter – the Board will hold hearings and the public will weigh-in with comments. Next spring the Board will adopt the budget for the next year – and the process will begin anew. It’s all public and the documents are available online through the County website.

      • charlie

        Why does everyone think everything is a conspiracy?
        I’m well aware of the County Manager form of government.
        My post was to point out that Ms. Donnellan understands her position and relationship with the board.
        Mr. Brown apparently did not and it is particularly relevant because the topic is the budget and she is not out speaking on behalf of the County, as Mr. Brown was quoted talking about dire budget issues.
        People keep wondering why Mr. Brown had an early departure. I said it earlier that he didn’t understand his position and relationship.
        It is nice to point out that ms. Donnellan does.
        and yes, it is a very public and open process. so Alan, where exactly is your conspiracy?? sheez.

        • Alan H

          This article has nothing to do with Ms Donnellan’s relationship with the Board. It’s an article about the latest step in the budget process – namely the board providing guidance to the Manager on next year’s budget. Replace the name Donnellan with Brown (or any other name) and the story is still the same. The facts have not changed. The County is facing a budget shortfall and the Board has provided its initial guidance on how the County should look to close that shortfall. While you may attempt to create a connection to Mr Brown’s removal there just isn’t one in this story.

  • YTK

    Wretched excess is already in evidence — McMansions where trees and grass used to be. THREE highrises within 2 blocks of one another creating a MARVELOUS funnel for air pollution — especially since they are on a HIGHLY traveled route.

    But of course the Board can’t spend any extra money to alleviate the stinking bus service – especially during rush hour — right???

    • WhiteFlipFlops

      Which high-rises are you talking about and where are they?

    • Real World Economics

      While the McMansions and new high-rises may represent “excess”, they are not a product of County spending. I’d be willing to wager that they are all owned by private individuals or corporations, NOT the County government. As such, they represent a source of REVENUE for the County, not a cost (other than any tax incentives that the County provides for them to build the projects).

  • tuesdayschild

    The board instructed Donnellan to find “any efficiencies or duplication that may exist in County programs,” as a way to save money. Really. This is a joke. Cutting spending requires tough choices. This Board does just not have it…they see more taxes as the solution to all their problems.

  • Politically Incorrect

    Here is my thougth for a duplication in the County that can be eliminated.
    In Arlington County we have both an Arlington County Police Department and an Arlington County Sheriff’s Department. Why???
    How about merging the sheriffs into the ACPD. How many supervisors, managers, lieutenants, captains, and admin positions can be eliminated?

    • rob42

      i never really understood the difference between sheriff’s deputies and police officers

      • Lou

        The Sheriff’s Department runs the jail and secures the court system. The police are the law enforcement officers of the county.

      • Dan

        In most other areas the sheriff’s department is responsible for the unincorporated parts of the county……Arlington, somewhat famously has no unincorporated portions.

        • charlie

          Virginia law prohibits area from incorporating within counties. There is also a moratorium on cities annexing into Counties.

  • TGEoA

    I’ve an idea. Eliminate 4 County Board positions and the county manager.

    • Arlingtonian2

      +1 Or put term limits on them. Does the Board get anything in severance when they are voted out? What happens if someone manages to be reelected 2 more times (i.e. 20 years with you-know-who)?

      • NorthAdams

        they are county employees. so they get benefits. and they qualify for retirement. and retirement is based on three highest years of earning.

        • Arlingtonian2

          So what does the Board earn annually? How long do they serve before they qualify for a retirement/pension?

  • Bluemont John

    Does anyone (perhaps a County employee, since we’re all anonymous here) have the lowdown on why Michael Brown got canned? Was it because he pointed out that the high salaries and pension costs are a big reason the budget is in the crapper?

  • MC

    Another fabulous 5-0 decision by the Board. Viva diversity and democracy!


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