Arlington, VA

Overall property values increased 6.3 percent during Arlington’s latest round of real estate assessments, which will be mailed to homeowners and released on the internet later today.

The increase is expected to bring in an addition $30 million in tax revenue for the county, which should help to offset this year’s estimated $25 million budget gap. The county budget office was originally expecting an approximately 1 percent increase in property values.

“It certainly… makes it easier for us to balance the budget,” said Michelle Cowan, Director of the Dept. of Management and Finance, who added that stepped-up commercial lending and property sales helped to drive the increase. “We consider ourselves very fortunate.”

However, Cowan cautioned that continued expenditure pressures — like rising health care, benefit and retirement costs — could still make the upcoming budget process challenging. She also said that other county revenue sources, like sales taxes, are unlikely to post significant increases.

The rise in property values is primarily due to strength in Arlington commercial real estate sector. Commercial assessments were up 12 percent, led by a 22 percent increase in hotel assessments and a 15 percent increase in office assessments. Apartment assessments were up between 8 and 9 percent, Cowan said.

Residential assessments, including single family homes, condos and townhouses, increased 1.4 percent this year. The average home in Arlington is now worth $510,200, up from $503,200 last year. The average property tax bill will now be $4,888, up $67 compared to last year.

Homeowners can appeal their assessments here.

Overall assessments were down 7.2 percent in 2010. Residential values were down 3.25 percent last year and commercial values declined 12.7 percent. County budget personnel say this year’s increase will put property values in the county “close to break-even” compared to two years ago.

County Manager Barbara Donnellan will present her proposed budget to the county board in February. The board will then hold public hearings in March, followed by budget adoption in April.

No word yet on how rising property tax revenues may affect Donnellan’s initial pledge to bolster this year’s budget with spending cuts and revenue increases.

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