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Civic Federation Makes Budget Recommendations

by ARLnow.com April 5, 2011 at 3:58 pm 2,029 29 Comments

The Arlington County Civic Federation will discuss the county and school budgets at its monthly meeting tonight.

At the meeting, the federation’s revenues and expenditures committee will reveal its suggested modifications to the county manager’s budget.

Among the recommendations:

  • A one-time 1.6 cent real estate tax reduction. (The manager’s budget recommends that real estate taxes hold steady at 95.8 cents per $100 in value.)
  • A $250,000 allocation for basic repairs to the Lubber Run Amphitheater
  • Only $400,000 for continued operations at the money-losing Artisphere, half the amount requested by staff.
  • Rejection of $239,000 in school funds for the David M. Brown Planetarium. The Federation calls for the planetarium to be supported with county funds, not school funds.

The meeting will start at 7:30 p.m. in the Hazel Conference Center at Virginia Hospital Center (1701 N George Mason Drive).

  • Screw the Planetarium

    • RJ

      Man, ArlNow’s comments are becoming the new Yahoo.

    • Hmm

      Agreed. Its a nice-to-have but most of us can easily live without it. The Smithsonian and NASA facilities are all within the area so pouring funds into keep antiquated infrastructure going seems a little silly, unless we have a clear purpose and plan for supporting this program over time. As a memorial, I get it, but that’s an expensive memorial for a county to maintain.

      As for the Federation plan, planetarium supporters want to maintain it for educational purposees. Unless we’re turning its primary function into being a memorial, it belongs under the school budget, not the county budget. No need for shell games, let’s call it what it is.

      • The CivFed is arguing that it is currently serving more of a community use than a school use.

        • Hmm

          I don’t doubt they’re spinning it that way. It’d be interesting to check the user count to see how many visitors are schoolkids/ have schoolkids with them vs no kids visiting with them. In practice, its mostly kids and people with kids that use it. Most supporters want to fund it so kids can keep visiting and learning about space there. If its important enough to local kids’ education to be worth funding, lets put it in the school budget where it belongs.

          • bb

            More laser Floyd then? Duuude….

          • Hmm

            +1

          • Lou

            That’s like saying all the playground equipment and maintenance in the county should be in the school budget.

          • Hmm

            The planetarium is a facility where one learns about an academic subject. A playground is a play area. Maintenance is also a completely different can of worms.

  • Lyon Village

    The CF is also calling for an independent inspector general’s function to investigate spending and staffing issues and fraud, waste, and abuse. That function is long overdue and will certainly be busy for some time catching up with problems county management has been able to keep from public view for so long. Arlington taxpayers should insist on this function.

    • madisonmanor

      If someone could figure out how to make it into a bond referendum, it would pass with 85% approval

    • Lou

      Agreed

    • Mayday

      +1

    • Thes and the rest of the ACDC hacks would have a conniption if you managed to get that on the ballot.

    • Bluemontsince1961

      Absolutely! An independent Inspector General function is long overdue and greatly needed. The CF is right on with this!

    • Josh S

      I also agree that the county needs an independent IG or auditor’s office. However, I think we should be careful about what we expect it to do. The goal should not be to play “gotcha” with county government offices. Any hint of that will doom it to ineffectiveness from the outset. County employees and especially managers need to see any such office as providing a service to improve effectiveness and efficiency. Otherwise, they will clam up and this will only result in further wasted resources.

  • TuesdaysChild

    On tax burden, the report states that the County is misleading people.

    Here is quote from report:

    “We find the Manager’s presentation highly misleading, in that its methodology calculates the real estate taxes for the benchmarked jurisdictions using the average Arlington residential value for all jurisdictions in the comparison –rather than using the unique average residential value of each jurisdiction. Attachment 2 to this report is our version of this same analysis, using the average residential value within each of the other six benchmarked jurisdictions to calculate real estate taxes. This analysis leads to a different conclusion –that Arlington has the highest average tax
    and fee burden.

    • Dan

      +1

    • Jezebel

      That’s not misleading. That is appropriate. Tax rates are on a cents per $100 value, so comparing a half-million dollar home in Arlington to a half-million dollar home in Fairfax or Prince William is the logical way to do it. The value of a property captures the total intrinsic value (construction, location, amenities, etc.). Why should a $500,000 household in Arlington be compared to a $200,000 household in Prince William? THAT is apples to orangutans.

      • Thes

        Exactly, the Federation is essentially saying that rich counties and poor counties ought to spend the same total amount of money on their government services. I disagree.

        I think that rich counties can afford to pay for more services (just like they can afford to pay for more of everything else). If we in Arlington desire more services (and from our voting record, apparently we do), and we can afford it (and from our demonstrated ability to pay big amounts on our homes, apparently we can), then we should get those services.

        I would not support benchmarking our tax burden on the basis of whether the people of Stafford or Prince William County’s residents could afford to pay the same sized checks.

        • Suburban Not Urban

          Your argument just doesn’t prove your conclusion, If we are a “richer” county, and we “pay for more services” – simple accounting(in=out) says we pay more taxes. Your conclusion should be that we have decided to pay higher taxes – which makes the county’s presentation/method disingenuous at best.

          • brendan

            eh. not that simple.

            just because we spend more per capita doesn’t mean we charge people a higher rate.

            again, the whole issue is whether you measure using tax rates as a percentage (preferred) or amount collected (also important, but not the standard measurement).

      • brendan

        All depends on how you account for “burden” – the most commonly accepted method to calculate burden is as a percent rather than an amount. Generally, using percent allows for better analysis, comparisons and economic modeling.

        Grateful to the civic federation for all their hard work, but the county is right on this one.

  • Harry

    I agree that the County should pay for the Planetarium. My kids are in classroom trailers and the County is throwing money down the Artisphere rathole, so clearly the County can afford it. A tax break is also only fair given real estate trends. I didn’t see anything in the summary about a year-round homeless shelter. If you build it they will come. The County Board is poised to make Arlington a mecca for the DC metro area homeless population. The limousine liberals who lobby the County Board for homeless services should donate to nonprofits themselves and/or open up their guest rooms to the mentally ill and substance abusing chronically homeless who will soon flock to Arlington.

    • Convert the Artisphere into a homeless shelter. At least it would be fulfilling an honest purpose.

      • Harry

        Yes – a homeless shelter for Arlington residents, not just any transient who crosses the bridge because they hear the food is good. The location is ideal in that it is surrounded by 9-5 offices. I would bet big money that the “compassionate” advocates who want to use everyones tax dollars (rather than their own dollars) to create a year-round warehouse for DC metro area homeless would not want the shelter next door to their house.

      • SArl

        Good idea since it has already been paid for and is losing money as an art venue.

  • 4Arl

    The tax rate vs. tax paid distinction naturally relates to who stands to gain. The interests of county management will lead to a convenient definition. When assessments rise, the tax rate is emphasized. If assessments decline, no doubt they will highlight how the average dollar amount of taxes declined with a rate “adjustment”. This may be par for the course in municipal government but I think there is a higher expectation in Arlington.

  • Sal

    Glad to see Lubber Run get support. We need a family friendly outdoor space for events.

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