Arlington, VA

The Arlington County Board is asking County Manager Barbara Donnellan to draft a new budget that limits spending growth to below the rate of inflation.

The Board voted unanimously Tuesday night on budget guidance that seeks to limit growth of county government operations to 1 percent in financial year 2013, while allowing Donnellan to propose an additional .66 percent in spending on projects previously committed to by the Board. Board members asked that Donnellan protect public health and safety, maintain the county’s social safety net, and invest in affordable housing and environmental sustainability.

“In these uncertain economic times, the Board is committed to limiting spending growth, preserving the safety net for our community’s most vulnerable members, and fulfilling previous project plans,” County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman said in a press release. “Our guidance to the County Manager reflects these priorities.”

The county said it’s only expecting “modest” revenue growth in FY 2013 — based on slightly higher real estate assessments — while facing higher costs for employee compensation, health care, facility maintenance, the county’s share of the Metro budget, debt service and schools. The county is anticipating spending growth at Arlington Public Schools, which is financially separate from county government, to be about 2.7 percent in FY 2013.

The budget guidance comes at a time when the rate of inflation is about 3.5 percent. Last year’s budget included 5.1 percent spending growth, but contained no tax rate increase.

Donnellan will now begin the process of gathering public input on the new budget. She will hold her first public budget meeting a week from today, on Wednesday, Dec. 7. The meeting will be held in the Central Library auditorium (1015 N. Quincy Street) at 7:00 p.m.

The Board is expected to pass a final budget in April 2012. The new financial year will start on July 1, 2012.

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