Arlington #39 on Highest Property Taxes List

by ARLnow.com May 23, 2011 at 4:14 pm 12,428 96 Comments

The average Arlington County homeowner paid $4,341 in annual property taxes between 2005 and 2009. That makes Arlington 39th on the list of highest median property taxes in the country, according to a new report by the Tax Foundation, a D.C.-based think tank.

While that figure is relatively high, Arlington’s taxes are relatively low by other measures. Arlington residents paid a median 3.46 percent of their income in property taxes, which is only the 328th highest rate in the country. The percentage of one’s home value paid in property taxes by Arlington residents between 2005 and 2009 was 0.77 percent, the 1523th highest rate in the country.

By contrast, Fairfax County was 37th on the property tax list, with an median property tax bill of $4,371 per year — $30 above Arlington. The difference is a bit more pronounced when considering the tax rate. Fairfax County homeowners paid 0.84 percent of their home’s value and 3.53 percent of their income in property taxes.

Alexandria residents paid less in property taxes — $3,827 per year — but actually paid more as a percentage of home value — 0.78 percent. In terms of income, however, Alexandria residents paid less than Arlington — 3.33 percent of income.

Montgomery County residents paid less than Arlington residents in all three categories. They paid $3,497 in property taxes, which is 0.72 percent of home values and 3.07 percent of income. D.C. residents had the best deal — an average of $1,778 paid in property taxes per year, which is 0.4 percent of home values and 1.9 percent of income.

The title of highest property taxes in the country belongs to Hunterdon County, N.J., where residents pay a median $8,216 per year in property taxes. Passaic County, N.J. pays a median of 8.44 percent of household income in property taxes, making it number one by that measure. Orleans County, N.Y. is number one for highest percentage of home value, at 3.05 percent.

Arlington’s property tax rate has gone up since the years that the Tax Foundation studied, and now stands at 0.958 percent.

(Of note: Like the Heritage Foundation Reason Magazine, the Tax Foundation has its own music video from ‘Arlington Rap’ guy Remy Munasifi.)

  • Jody

    I believe that should be Passaic County, NJ

  • And the liberal renters who like to say a mortgage deduction is a free handout paid $0 in property taxes (along with the $0 in property upkeep).

    • CHouse

      Except property taxes are figured into what an apartment complex charges in rent.

      • And if you take the mortgage deduction away, corporations will be the only owners since there is NO reason to pay full taxes and maintenance costs on a private residence. Then, the renters who were screaming the mortgage deduction was unfair will be screaming that rents are increasing because there will no longer be the competition of buying (at least economical competition).

    • ManWithAPlan

      I would like to hear any argument that the deduction structure does not favor home ownership over renting. It’s a nationwide bias/value statement that hurts the working middle-classes.

      • OddNumber

        It is not a value statement at all. Tax policy is an economic tool used by governments to encourage certain types of behavior. Historically the home building industry has had a major impact on economic growth and the mortgage deduction is a tool used to encourage that growth to continue. Although renters don’t directly feel the impact of the deduction, they benefit from it indirectly. Lower taxes on the owner results in lower rents.

        There is also a tax deduction based on the number of dependents. That subsidy isn’t there as charity. It is there to encourage people to have more children, which increases economic output by increasing consumption and the size of the labor pool. (there are additional costs associated with building more schools, etc, but those costs are offsite by the economic output over time per child) I bet more than a few of those complaining about the mortgage deduction have completely ignored that they are getting a similar subsidy for having children.

        BTW – I don’t down a home, nor do I have any kids, so I lose out on both policies.

      • Arlwhenever

        As a homeowner with a mortgage I readily acknowledge the home mortgage interest deduction is give away to the upper middle class. It’s not justifiable and is pretty much non-existent outside of the US. It’s too bad the home mortgage interest deduction didn’t go the way of many other ridiculous deductions that were eliminated or phased out with the 1986 tax reform bill. We may never have experienced the bubble that so rudely deflation in 2008 if it weren’t for this biggest of all government subsidies.

        As for children, the economics of a household with children are very different that one without. It’s not a question of subsidy. We don’t want a progressive tax code to perversely take money away that is needed to raise a family so then the government can redistribute it back. It’s always better to look to the family as the bedrock social and economic insititution — personal responsibility is the most important value of a free society and a strong economy. Since personal exemptions are generally less than the incremental cost of household members, there is absolutely no subsidy.

        • John Fontain

          I agree.

          I own a home. I personally love the interest deduction. But at the same time, I think it is an unfair subsidy of my housing cost and I think it should be eliminated or at least be scaled back to include interest on a much lower mortgage amount. It makes no sense that I should pay less taxes than someone else with the same income as me just because I owe a bank some money.

          Good luck getting rid of this government cheese however.

        • OddNumber

          Interesting comments. I think where we disagree is on whether a tax deductions incentivize or subsidize desired behaviors. Under the incentive paradigm, people are more likely to buy a house or have a child because of the tax break. However, under the subsidy paradigm, people are getting a housing tax break as a “give away” or are receiving assistance to raise a family. We will probably just have to disagree on that part of the policy.

          What I find really interesting is your argument that one tax break is a subsidy, but the other isn’t. The dependent tax break is applied to everyone regardless of income bracket. It does absolutely help out families in lower income brackets where money is tight even before having children, but if the purpose is to not “perversely take money away that is needed to raise a family so then the government can redistribute it back”, then why do millionaires get the tax break? It is a strange form of welfare that everyone with children gets. There is a lot of social value to helping protect families, but that it isn’t a subsidy isn’t correct.

      • Suburban Not Urban

        You guys are ignoring the intangible benefits of home-ownership. How many 20 somethings would defer growing up and owning a home(taking on real responsibility) if not for this deduction. It encourages folks to invest in communities, create roots, get involved in community issues. It is a trade off with it’s market distoration and maybe a bit regressive tax policy but I think the value justifies the cost.

        • Here here! Not everyone wants to live in Clarendon in a stacked shoe box and drink 5 nights a week.

    • R. Griffon

      Exactly. It’s just like those people buying groceries all the time. They don’t pay for the farms it comes from, the gas to bring it to market, or the salaries of the people who put it on the shelf.

      Worst. Freeloaders. Ever.

    • Eponymous Coward

      The deduction is not a handout; it is a subsidy.

      I’m curious about this notion that only “liberal renters” can take issue with the mortgage deduction. Usually, liberals are supposed to like government intervention in private decision-making – or so the narrative goes.

      Can libertarians not oppose the mortgage deduction on the grounds that it is the paternalistic hand of Big Government, encouraging decisions that Washington policymakers have decided are “optimal”?

    • Eponymous Coward

      My previous comment seems to be eaten, but it was to the effect that:
      1) a handout isn’t the same as a subsidy; and
      2) why can only “liberal renters” complain about the mortgage deduction? What about libertarians who don’t want the paternalistic hand of government pushing people towards decisions that Washington thinks are “optimal”?

      Look at the Cato Institute – those pinko commies!

    • Jeff

      The most overreaching Govt I have ever witnessed. They try to shake you down for 100.00 tax for not registering your vehicle, if you visit over 30 days. They don’t honor other states PP tax.. ie if you buy a car in Arlington and pay your PP taxes in another state, Arlington will garnsih your checking account even if you supply them with a receipt from another state! It’s perhaps the worse of the worse and the highest tax soutehrn state in the Union!

  • Mickey

    Is that #39 of ALL the counties in the country? And who is saying that isn’t too bad? I think it is disgraceful especially when most of the major roads are nothing more than paved dirt roads that beat your car to death! Why do the voters put up with this?

    • Max

      Counties do more than pave roads

    • CarsSuck

      It’s a lot more than paving roads. It’s paying for top notch schools, parks, fire/rescue, social services, and police. You pay to live in a very prosperous, productive, and safe community. If you’d like to trade in that luxury, go visit Detroit or Flint. I heard their roads are in great shape!

      • R. Griffon

        And houses are cheap too! Your real estate taxes will be so low, you’ll be stickin it to Tha Man in no time!

    • John Snyder

      A high median tax rate does not help pay for the roads, only the medians. So what does Arlington do? Create more medians! And they want to put medians on the Pike too! Our taxes are going to keep going up, only to see more grass and plants in the middle of the road. Geez !! They ought to lower the median tax and put the money into the road and sidewalk taxes.

    • Josh S

      Also, most of the “major roads” are county maintained.

      • Josh S

        D’oh! I meant state maintained.

        • RosRes

          Except of course for the roads the county has taken over, like COlumbia Pike…

  • ArlForester

    Try paying 9k a year for a $400k house like they do on Long Island in NY. It’s obscene up there. They have to buy less house because they will spend nearly a grand a month in taxes alone. Arlington pays more because the homes are valuable, not because the taxes are out of whack.

    • KalashniKEV

      +1 LI is a hell hole.

  • brendan

    Misleading headline — ftr, tax rate is the preferable measure of taxes. The rate is much more useful in a whole host of other economic evaluations along with adjusting for cost of living & the housing market, at least slightly, which sum #’s do not.

    “#39th in the country” is very misleading and just because a conservative think tank says that in a report doesn’t mean it’s true. It’s good that you also mention the 328th ranking, b/c that number actually has some relevance and importance. I’m not a fan of the county government, but i’d suggest we get a better return than most places.

    • yequalsy

      I agree with your general sentiment but do want to make a (some pedantic) point. Rates by themselves tell you little because they don’t reflect exemptions or assessment practices, both of which vary by jurisdiction and dramatically affect how much we actually pay. The 1523 ranking (revenue as a % of property values) really gets us much closer to a notion of an effective tax rate and is the more reasonable basis of comparison. Due to our high property values Arlington doesn’t have to tax nearly as much to get the same amount of revenue as, say, Orleans County, New York.

  • W

    This is #39 considering property taxes only. I think MoCo residents need to pay additional income taxes? That might end up being equal or more taxes. Maybe someone has some experience living in MD? If this is the case it could be deceiving to compare affordability with just a property tax ranking. Either way, you are still getting taxed.

    • neathridge

      In addition, MD residents pay an additional (50%?) state real estate property tax, so this is really apples to oranges.

  • Suburban Not Urban

    This is a travesty – what Exactly do I get that’s better than folks in county No. 3000. County apologists like to say – oh but the property value of your house is higher – so what? Do I use more county services? Do I get better services? – No I do not. We don’t know how to plow the streets. My street is potholed up and down. The water main leaks up through the street in front of my sister’s house about every 3 months. The only thing the county does better than average is toot its own horn, apply for gobs of national awards, make hand-outs to it’s pet projects like the Artisphere, and spend scads of staff time lining up developers so that they can turn suburban neighborhoods into urban concrete jungles.

    • brendan

      eh. you clearly have not traveled to other parts of the country… I’m hardly a big fan of the county govt here, but one thing you cannot dispute is the high level and wide array of services offered, infrastructure investments and good public schools.

      sorry for your particular issues, i have my own w/ the county as well, but overall and compared to other jurisdictions, Arlington provides it’s residents with a lot.

      • Suburban Not Urban

        Just not true, lived in NY state, NJ, Penn, Wis, Southern VA(in addition to FC and MClean).
        Back it up. Only thing that might be a slight mitigating factor is cost of living – and certainly not from the Median to 39th. Every dollar above the median should have to be justified.

        • Dan


        • OddNumber

          You might consider that you live in the 13th most densely populated county in the country (from wikipedia, based on 2000 census data). Although you don’t feel that you’re getting your money’s worth out of the services, you have access to some of the best parks and schools in the country, not to mention a great library system and a world class (heavily subsidized) transit system despite the high demand on those resources.

          Unfortunately, due to the cost of living (DC region has 10th highest cost of living – http://www.freeusaguide.com/second05.htm), few of those people actually pay property taxes on anything besides their car. You live in a great place, but the fact is that the tax burden falls on home owners to keep it great. You could chose to live somewhere else.

          • Suburban Not Urban

            Please just stop it with the “chose to live elsewhere” comments – my desire is just to make the county better for those of us that do pay taxes.

          • OddNumber

            Out of my rational discussion with actual facts about why Arlington has to squeeze more out of tax payers to provide the services that you apparently feel aren’t any better than anywhere else, you decide only to make a snarky comment about whether or not you could actually live somewhere else? Nice. You asked for people to back up comments about services provided in our county and you complete ignore it.

    • doodly

      Yes, you get better services. Seriously, dude, you live in a pretty damn good place. Look around.

      • Suburban Not Urban

        You guys keep saying better services – like what. Pretty good schools but we pay way more than we get. Unless we are getting the 39th best school in the country – we pay way too much – and with the number of folks in Arlington that send their kids to private school – I seriously doubt we are getting the 39th.

        • doodly

          First of all, read the story – 39th is bull. We pay alot in dollars because we’re wealthy. We pay pretty low taxes as a percentage of our wealth.

          I couldn’t find a county ranking for schools out there. Anyone?

          • brendan

            not that i agree w/ him or the system but jay matthews over at the washington post consistently rates all Arlington HS in the top 1% nationally on the ‘challenge index’

          • Suburban Not Urban

            What does wealthy have to do with it? When you pay for something – you pay for a service. If you pay $100 for the same thing that you can get elsewhere for $10, it doesn’t matter if I’m rich or poor – you’re just not very bright.

          • brendan

            hmm… accusing someone of not being very bright while ignoring data and not understanding the difference (and importance!) of rate vs. sum calculations, is an interesting stance.

            here’s a very basic explanation that might appeal to your level of economics — In areas where things are more expensive (or there’s more wealth, whatever), whether it’s housing or skilled labor – you can expect things to cost the government more. In a wealthy area, to remain competitive the govt needs to pay higher salaries than say Cedar Rapids. Everything from construction and maintenance to administrative professionals require more spending per FTE – it’s why almost every corporation, large non-profit and govt has a COLA formula. To restate for the densest among us, in (generally) wealthy areas, such as DC, NYC, Boston, the Bay Area, etc — things tend to cost more than Detroit or Louisville.

            If you want to look up the differences in services, rather than blind b1+c#ing, pull up some county budgets and you’ll start to have some comprehension of how this compares to other places in the country…I don’t agree with a lot of the spending, believe it’s done as efficiently as it could be, or properly aligned with what a majority of citizens want, but it’s amazing the amount Arlington offers. FTR, complaining about potholes, is kind of ridiculous on several levels 1) the mid-atlantic is a prime location due to our weather patterns for the development of potholes 2) most of the big roads, where the problem is far more prevalent, are maintained by the state, not the county.

          • Suburban Not Urban

            As you’ll see in one of my posts earlier in the thread, I mention cost of living(an engineering degree tends to provide you background in things like this) justifies some above the median, I just don’t believe it justifies it’s loftiness.

            The difference in per diem rates for the federal government is often taken as a stand in for location cost of living adjustments. One way to attack it would be to take the median tax and adjust it by the ratio of the DC per diem to the average US per diem. Then justify ever dollar above this adjusted median. Does anyone have those numbers handy and current?

            You could actually get more complicated and start trying to bring in Bacon-Davis wage rates but as anyone who’s ever worked in industry knows they have little agreement with real costs.

            One note part of the cost of living is actually discretionary-in the benefit portion of labor costs.

            So which is it “We get more services” OR “Our costs are higher”.- the county defender position. I believe it’s neither but instead, poor capital and operating cost efficiency, lack of budget restraint encouraged by a lack of meaningful discussion on needs versus wants, government that ballooned in the go-go 2000’s.

          • OddNumber

            Suburban Not Urban – I only have the GSA per diem rates by counties that are actually called out in the GSA schedule (an unknown number are not specifically listed) and double counts for localities that have different rates for different seasons. Total per diems in the US range from $123 to $366, and the DC area ranges from $228 to $282 depending on the season. The average is $162, but given irregularities in my source I think the range is the only data that can be used.

            A better metric would be to use an actual cost of living index such as in the link I provided you above (http://www.freeusaguide.com/second05.htm). The ratio of renters to owners is probably important to consider given this is the most densely populated county in the country.

          • Stu Pendus

            +1 SnU

          • Josh S

            I believe ArlNow published a story about the Jay Matthews index just last week. According to it (and to Newsweek), Arlington schools are in the top 1% nationwide. It is surely a flawed exercise (not least because how do you quantify what makes a good school), but there it is.

            Cost of living has to play a huge role in how much it costs to run the Arlington County government. So comparisons on the gross amount of taxes paid are just not useful. Ten county employees in Arlington cost, on average, way more than ten county employees in rural Virginia, for example.

            The rate is the important statistic, since it more closely resembles an income tax rate in terms of revealing how much relative burden the jurisdiction is placing on its residents.

          • PhilL

            That reminds me, wasn’t there also a recent story on ArlNow about how Arlington County’s employees are paid less than their counterparts in surrounding jurisdictions?

          • They indeed are.

        • david

          Newsweek ranked HB Woodlawn the 28th best high school in the country; Washington Lee was ranked 63rd; Yorktown was 83rd. Of the top 4 Virginia high schools, 3 of them were in Arlington.


          • Burger

            Yet, there is a premium for people buying homes in Yorktown school district over W&L once you get away from the few homes away from the Metro.

    • Don’t forget that you also have to endure the peril of Rolling Thunder! LOL

    • Bluemontsince1961


  • roquer

    This has been the cute little out for the Board since the 50s. They’ve always talked about how low taxes are in Arlington.This makes folks think they’re actually paying less taxes than they are. Those of us who have heard/read this garbage for 60 years know that, of course, the assessments are waaaay high. So, until the Board turns down the assessments, then naturally we’re all going to be paying more…..no matter what the Board says.
    In truth, I think the Board has done a good job of bringing business to Arlington. Clarendon,Ballston, Rosslyn, Crystal City, Courthouse are all wonderful places to live, and shop and eat in. Pretty safe, and it’s mainly because the Board had the plan for that and put all of its departments in place to foment that plan.
    Arlington probably has more logical thinking, college grads percentage wise, than any place in the country. So, County Board, just tell the truth about the taxes, and be proud of the remainder of your accomplishments.

  • MC

    “(Of note: Like the Heritage Foundation, the Tax Foundation has its own music video from ‘Arlington Rap’ guy Remy Munasifi.)”

    I still don’t understand why Remy lives in Arlington. Judging from his videos, he must be miserable. I here Virginia Beach has lower taxes — maybe Remy would be happier there and make rap videos about love and goodwill.

    • Sorry, that should have been “Reason Magazine” sted Heritage.

  • Me

    “Arlington’s taxes are relatively low by other measures. Arlington residents paid a median 3.46 percent of their income in property taxes, which is only the 328th highest rate in the country.”

    Why is this characterized as low? This is still top 10% in the nation.

  • MB

    Very Fox News.

    • brendan

      from the misleading title of this article to the idiotic commentary, i’m starting to understand why fox news is the top rated cable news network…

      poorly labeled stories appealing to selfish tendencies of an uneducated commentariat is currently an unrivaled recipe for success in the media.

  • KalashniKEV

    What better services am I getting? I’m not getting any services… roads?

    • Novanglus

      I just took over the bills for the house where I grew up in New England.

      That town’s tax rate is twice Arlington’s. There are no public parks. Recreation programming and after-school care are available from the YMCA, but only to Y members. The Little League owns and maintains its own fields. The school fields and playgrounds are locked after hours. The libraries are privately-funded non-profits. The volunteer fire companies have their own taxing districts. Ambulance and rescue services are provided by volunteers or for-profit companies. Each neighborhood is responsible for contracting garbage collection and snow removal. Water is provided by for-profit utility company. The sewer districts send separate bills to their users (but most houses need to maintain septic tanks).

      All in all, Arlington is a bargain.

  • Mike

    What you really have to look at is the fact that property taxes in Arl have doubled over the last 5 years or so. Yes my house is more valuable but am I getting twice as much from the government as I did 5 years ago for double the taxes. Definitely not. Arlington is a great place to live no doubt, but taxes are growing way too fast.

    • mehoo/joshs/thes/dynaroo

      But you CAN’T look at the total tax paid, you can ONLY look at the rate, which is one of the lowest around and has been forever. Stop trying to use logic around here – it hurts our heads.

      • Actually, you CAN, and Mike did. Tell your argument to an elderly person on a fixed income who can no longer pay property taxes because they have doubled. Tell him/her that he/she is “wealthy” and to stop complaining. Right…… Same home, higher out-of-pocket. This does not equal wealth. Maybe when he/she dies his/her heirs will feel the wealth. Woooo hooooo.

        • Thes

          Arlington defers and/or forgives property taxes for various people are elderly or have low income/assets.

          • How generous of you Mr. Zimmerman.

          • Thes

            It’s actually generous of the other taxpayers and voters of Arlington, who support this kind of progressivity and elect government leaders who enact it.

            But somehow I don’t think that’s what you were getting at in your comment, so I’ll give you a DH0 for it. DH1 if you actually think I’m Mr. Zimmerman.

          • I have no problem with that. It should be done. But calling it “generous” is the same as calling the elderly person “wealthy” just because the home has appreciated. Not true, obviously, if he/she needs the tax forgiveness to just stay in the home.

          • Thes

            What does “wealthy” mean, then? That’s a sincere question, by the way.

          • “Wealthy” is a difficult definition, because what one needs is subjective. I can say someone who lived in a home for many years suddenly is deemed “wealthy”, taxes rise, and now they can’t pay them…..so they take the tax forgiveness or get thrown out. I guess they could sell and move to an area where they could transfer that “wealth” to actual cash they would need to pay their taxes.

            Then again, to a homeless person, he/she is wealthy. It is such a shame if we need to compare ourselves to homeless people to feel the wealth after taxes. Maybe the homeless can compare themselves to folks in Africa who don’t even have a running water fountain or metro station overhang to sleep under. Then they’d feel rich too.

        • mehoo/joshs/thes/dynaroo

          OB – I was being sarcastic – I figured with the cast of characters cited, you would have picked up on that, since they continually argue that point.

          • I got it.. My poor attempt at sarcasm back. 🙂

          • Thes

            DH0: Hey, you twit!
            DH1: Since you’re only trying to cause trouble, we shouldn’t really expect to learn anything from you.
            DH2: With your sarcastic, personal attacks you don’t elevate the discussion at all.
            DH3: Your dismissal of anyone who thinks we have sensible taxation in this County is misplaced and wrong.
            DH4: We have an efficient government in Arlington that spends money on what the majority of people want.
            DH5: When you claim we “ONLY want to look at the rate” you are misstating the position of defenders of the current Arlington taxation system. I’m sure we can also agree that it is valid to look at other things, like the amount of fees paid on water/sewer and other services.
            DH6: But considering that people choosing where to buy a house generally start by assuming they will buy the most expensive house they can afford, it is the tax rate and not total taxes paid that has the biggest impact on people. Granted, sometimes there are tradeoffs where people are willing to pay a little more to live near outstanding government-funded transit, recreation or schools. But that only bolsters the idea that Arlington is doing things right.

            Try it out.

    • CW

      What has grown about your taxes if not the rate? I can’t believe this discussion keeps happening. That’s what a percentage is…you take a number, in this case the value of your home, and multiply it through by the rate. If one of those two goes up, in your case the assessed value, then yes, the product of those two numbers will increase.

      The argument that you and the others like you are making is the same is if an investor selling stock that had risen 200% in 10 years was upset because his brokerage fees were higher than those of someone whose stock had tanked, when both investors pay the same rate to the broker. Makes no sense.

      • John Fontain

        No offense, but your brokerage fee analogy is weak given that most fees are flat regardless of trade size. And more important, it misses the point entirely.

        Maybe this question will help you understand the issue: If the absolute amount of taxes you currently pay (regardless of their form, e.g., property taxes, income taxes, sales taxes, etc.) all doubled in the next three years and no incremental government services were provided, wouldn’t you question the need for the increase in total taxes and how that money was being spent?

        • brendan

          see this is why we discuss taxes in terms of rate — not only to compute economic advantage or disadvantage… but also b/c there’s all this false logic out there such as “taxes have doubled in the last five years.”

          I’m not familiar with the numbers but say the amount collected is double what we took in five years ago — it would be false to assume the percentage of revenue collected has doubled, the average amount paid has doubled or even that an individuals taxes went up. There are several factors involved here, which have been discussed ad nauseum in previous posts, that can influence the amount collected which is why any serious discussion of taxes focuses on rates.

          • John Fontain

            “there’s all this false logic out there such as “taxes have doubled in the last five years.” ”

            There are thousands of real property owners who can show you their tax bills if you are in doubt.

            You proclaim that a doubling of taxes is false and immediately thereafter state that you “aren’t familiar with the numbers.” Do you see the irony in your own post? Why do you expect to be engaged on this topic when you acknowledge that your position isn’t based on hard numbers?

            Property tax rates are derived from gross collections needed. In other words, the county says:

            1. We need tax collections of $X to support our projected costs.
            2. Private property values are $Y.
            3. Therefore, we need to set the tax rate at Z% of property value to collect the taxes we need.

            Therefore, it just doesn’t make sense to say that the rate matters but the gross collection doesn’t. The tax rate is just a “plug” as they say in the accounting world.

          • Thes

            In one county, the people live in poverty. They are poor. The place is so dismal, with terrible roads, no parks or health services, and the homes so small and poorly constructed, that the average home is worth a mere $50,000. The local jurisdiction struggles with this low tax base to fund its schools, and so it has a tax rate of $2 per $100 of property value in order to collect a mere $1000 from the average homeowner to pay a small number of county employees and a few teachers, who must work out of their back yards. There are a small number of rich people in that county, they live on large parcels with big self-sufficient houses with helicopter pads to whisk them away whenever they need to get to a real city. Their homes are worth on average $500,000, and so they pay $10,000 per year in taxes.

            Another county is a wealthy county. It has great transportation, parks, schools and other public services. It is in such demand, and homes are so well constructed, that the average home is worth $500,000. Because of its vast wealth, this county can afford to charge a mere $1 per $100 per year in property taxes, raising an enormous $5,000 per year from the average household. There are some poor people in this county, however. They live in tiny, outdated un-renovated studio condominiums without free parking, dishwashers or cable outlets. Their homes are worth a mere $50,000, and they pay $500 per year in taxes.

            Let’s say you were “rich”, or, let’s say you were “poor”, or let’s say you were somewhere in-between. Which of these two counties would you prefer to live in? Which one has the higher or lower taxes?

          • John Fontain

            While I’d rather live in the rich county, your example appears to have nothing to do with the specific topic at hand; namely, whether taxes have doubled or not.

          • doodly

            I sure am glad I am wealthy enough to have high taxes. I wish I paid even more in taxes because I were wealthier.

          • brendan

            wow. and the comment section has reached a new low…

            i’m simply pointing out that your logic is flawed, therefore numbers are inconsequential. In any multi variable equation, it’s impossible know the value of each individual variable based on the sum alone.

            So, in addition to your failure to understand basic properties of how taxes are measured, you’re making unsubstantiated leaps in logic. FTR, i’ve never said receipts don’t matter, they do especially in counties that work backward in adjusting tax rates, but once again – the primary and most useful method for measuring taxes is the rate. Other metrics such as receipts are certainly useful, especially in making political arguments, but the primary measure for taxes in terms of whether or not they’re going up or down is calculated as a rate.

            Say conservative supply-siders are right… That, despite all the empirical data to the contrary, lowering the tax rate spurs enough growth that lost revenue is replaced by new economic activity thus generating a net increase in revenue…. According to you this would be raising taxes.

          • John Fontain

            What I see from your posts is a continuation of the assertion that the only thing that we should look at is the tax rate, but you’ve yet to support your position by explaining why. But at this point, there is no need to try to come up with an after the fact explanation, because -as I’ve explained why above – the tax rate is simply an output of the process.

          • doodly

            The tax rate may simply be an output of the process. So what? It’s also a measurement of that output, much like an effective tax rate is after you do your income tax. It measures how much of your wealth goes to taxes. It is pretty low in Arlington. There’s really nothing more to say about it.

        • CW

          Ok, so the brokerage fee isn’t a percent, you’re right about that. I would agree with your question, IF that were the appropriate question. The problem is that it isn’t! By buying a house in a part of the world where taxes are assessed with a rate, you implicitly signed on to the concept of that system. You didn’t buy into a system where you were buying specific services for specific fees. As they say, don’t hate the player – hate the game. If you want the county to have some other fee structure, then lobby for it.

          Secondly, many people say that they’ve not seen a specific increase in services provided. I’ve not examined the county’s financial documents, but perhaps they’ve been using some of the money to pay down debt they incurred in the past (I understand they they’re still incurring new debt as well, but they may simultaneously paying off old). Perhaps that past debt was used to fund infrastructure improvements that have already been realized. Perhaps the county lost assets or revenue streams from outside investments that had lower returns during the recession? I’m not a financial expert, so I’m treading on thin ice here. But there’s no way that if the county’s revenue has doubled, they’re spending it all on dog parks and the Artisphere.

          • John Fontain

            “If you want the county to have some other fee structure, then lobby for it.”

            Where did I say this? If you read back through the posts, there has been no statement from me that the taxing structure is wrong. The discussion has been about the significant increase in absolute taxes paid and whether we’ve seen a corresponding increase in services as a result. The answer is a clear no.

    • Suburban Not Urban


  • Burger

    First, as everyone notes this is taxes paid and not the rate.

    Second, you pay more because you are wealthier. (Note this is sarcasm).

  • Joe

    Arlington County is a mess. Taxes should be considerably lower given that Arlington is such a small county. That they aren’t is a disgrace and an indictment of the County Board who are as irresponsible with the taxpayers money as it gets.

  • There needs to be a more competitive political environment. IMHO, if the incumbent party had any inkling that would become the minority party come the next election, the real estate tax rate would be at least five cents if not ten cents lower. Just my humble opinion.

  • Unfortunately, high taxes are the “Arlington Way”. We’ve had one party rule for years, so no big surprise. With two metro lines and a prime geographic location, the county should be able to keep residential property taxes at below average rates.

    Most annoying is the county board that never stops patting itself on the back for this or that unneeded program or handout.

    • Seriously

      Please stop attempting to introduce logic into this discussion. You’re only going to spin up the proletariat.

      The last thing we need is more “hush money” being handed out to keep the peace.

  • 4Arl

    MoCo has a 3.2 percent local “piggyback” income tax rate. Rates as a percent of income are not the same as percent of assessment. You have to pay RE taxes out of income, either directly, or indirectly through rent. This is an important factor in choosing an appropriate measure, if say, you are looking at tax burden on moderate income households. If you are looking at a different issue then another measure, like avg. taxes paid or percent of assessment, could make more sense. Part of the disconnect may be that commenters are interested in answering different questions.

  • jeff yoder

    Perhaps the most intrusive over reaching invasive Govt I have ever visited!!! Why, because they charge visiters to park with a 33.00 Parking decal and whne you pay that Arlington then attempts to shake you down for an additional $100.00 tax for NOT registering your auto even though your visiting. They also don’t recipricate other staes PP taxes and expect you to pay it even though you already paid it in another state. Arlington can garnish your checking account in less than 2 months wothout any court approval! Beyong Socilaism!


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