County Board Advertises Two Cent Tax Rate Hike

by ARLnow.com February 15, 2012 at 9:37 am 4,167 70 Comments

The Arlington County Board gave itself the flexibility to raise real estate taxes by as much as two cents as part of its FY 2013 budget process.

The Board voted unanimously last night to advertise a rate of 97.8 cents per $100 of assessed value for Calendar Year 2012, two cents higher than the 2011 rate. By law, the Board can set the tax rate no higher than the advertised rate, though it can set a lower rate.

The advertisement of a higher tax rate comes as the county is already assured of higher tax revenues, as a result of a 6.6 percent increase in residential and commercial real estate assessments.

As part of her recommended FY 2013 budget, County Manager Barbara Donnellan suggested a 0.5 cent tax rate hike and a 1.5 cent advertised rate. The budget includes increased spending on affordable housing, county employee compensation, restoration of branch library hours and Arlington Public Schools.

A public hearing on the FY 2013 budget is scheduled for March 20, while a hearing on the tax rate and fees is scheduled for March 22. Final budget adoption is expected on April 21.

“In the next six weeks we will hear more from the public, and weigh the needs of the community,” Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a statement. “Our goal is to deliver a sustainable, balanced budget in April that spends tax dollars wisely, delivers core services efficiently and makes strategic investments in our infrastructure.”

Last night the Board also advertised a decrease in residential solid waste fees and an increase in fees for preschool, summer camp, senior adult and facility rental programs through the Department of Parks and Recreation.

  • KalashniKEV

    “The budget includes increased spending on affordable housing, county employee compensation, restoration of branch library hours and Arlington Public Schools.”

    NO, NO, NO, and NO.

    • Stitch_Jones

      In other words, paying off their safe voting blocs. “Affordable housing” is a meaningless term, by the way.

      County employee compensation = pay raise for beaurocrats. Yay.

      Never occurs to us to actually cut spending on or phase out other less useful programs does it?

      However, since there wil be higher revenues (reportedly) coming our way, maybe we should start planning for our portion of upkeep of the Metro, seeing as how the new proposed budget has cut our federal Metro funding.

      Which is fine by me, as noone in Nebraska or New York or Florida, etc, ever use the Metro, so their tax money should not subsidize it.

      • TCE

        … and I don’t have kids so I’m going to stop paying for schools…

      • drax

        Tourists from other states use Metro all the time.

  • Burger

    Snicker…this is almost too funny

    Less than 4 months ago… the board said


    “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.”

    Ah…what we say and then actually do.

    • Chris Slatt

      We’ll have to see what final budget the board adopts, but the county manager’s proposal follows that guideline:

      “The FY 2013 General Fund budget, excluding the transfer to APS, would increase 1.6 percent over FY 2012”

      • Burger

        So, we just exclude the biggest part of the budget and say that doesn’t matter? Arlington County schools spend the most (or second most) per student in the state.

        further, in the link I provided above the County was “allegedly” directing and increase of 2.7% to the schools. Now, 3 months later it is 4.8% – which is above inflation.

        Why? Oh, that’s right most Arlingtontians are essentially lemmings.

        • Chris Slatt

          I’m just saying that the part you quoted (and the further text in the article) quite clearly excludes schools from that percentage. If I say “I’m going to spend $50 or less on movie tickets next month” and then I spend $45 on movie tickets and $20 on video games, it’s disingenuous to say that I broke my promise just because you consider both movie tickets and video games to be entertainment.

          And in the link you provided the County “anticipates” spending growth for APS to be about 2.7%. Now it’s 4.8% so yeah, it’s legit to ask “Why the change?” on that front. I’m certainly curious.

          I *think* the School / County split is set by a formula agreed to between the two based on enrollment, so if enrollment changed more than expected it might change that figure, but this particular area is outside my normal realm so someone else more knowledgeable will have to step in to clarify.

  • JamesE

    The extra funds will allow for the Artisphere 2

    • Yet there is no money to preserve a historic farmhouse.

      • South Awwwlington

        turn it into Affordable Housing – APAH will break their necks to get in there if there is cash for them too.

  • Mitt Romney

    Only little people pay taxes.

    • But Mitt, you paid $6.2 million in federal tax over the last two years, and gave away $7 million to charity in that same time frame. You horrible man.

      • Mitt Romney

        I still paid a lower percentage of my income than you did, sucker.

        • But I didn’t give $7M to charity either.

          • Benedict

            Is the Mormon church really a “charity”?

          • 99 percenter

            Neither did he. The $7 M is over two years. Besides, It’s not a shocking amount when you have a quarter-billion dollars in wealth.

          • Burger

            Actually, the donation is his tithing amount – i.e. 10% of annual income.

            What was your percent donated of annual income to charity?

          • Josh S

            So you’re saying he really didn’t have a choice.

            And I think the general argument among the no-tax/pro-charity types is that somehow charities can provide the same services government does. Except I’m more than a little dubious there is much overlap in what the Mormon church is going to do with $7 million and anything the federal government might do. Proseltyzing isn’t generally a government function.

            Summed together, the guy hardly deserves kudos for giving $7 million to his church.

          • So, Josh, you want to judge which charities are appropriate now? Isn’t that just a personal decision where you want to put your donated money to do good?

          • Josh S

            Well, yes, I recognize I am getting dangerously close to some very unstable ground here. Comparing the “appropriateness” of charities is definitely a fool’s errand. However, I am willing to go this far because my point rests on an assertion that there is little or no overlap between what the Mormon Church would do with $7 million, for example, and what any government entity would do with $7 million in taxes. I thought I detected some attempt to equate Romney’s tax paid and money given to the church in your post earlier.

          • You really don’t know what his plans are for his estate, once his “wealth” is liquified, do you? He may be like Bill Gates (another shockingly rich man) who has clearly stated he is going to give it all away to charity.

      • Ms. IRS

        From a tax perspective, it makes sense for the Romneys to use shares of stock to make charitable donations. If someone donates shares that have increased in value, they can deduct the contribution while avoiding the 15 percent capital gains tax they would have to pay otherwise.

        It’s a very common strategy.

        • Zoning Victim

          Not paying taxes on the money you donate is good tax strategy, but it doesn’t change the fact that they gave money away to a charity. It’s not like they gained money by donating.

        • You are kidding, me right?

      • drax

        So if you paid 80% of your income in taxes, you’d still be fine with that because Romney, paying 15%, still paid more than you did, OB?

        • Undereducated Bush

          You damn liberals with your “logic”.

        • Suburban Not Urban

          Except if you are below the median(thats the 50% point) you paid no federal income tax thats 0% and infinity less than what Mitt payed

          • Zoning Victim

            Right, so everybody might be able to be taxed at 15% of their income, including businesses, if everybody paid and nobody got sweetheart deals to avoid taxation.

          • South Arlington

            Out of curiousity, what portion of this well publicized 50% not paying taxes figure are Olds that are living off untaxed retirement income? Not prodding, I’ve been curious about this.

          • Josh S

            Defunct automobiles are getting retirement income?

          • Josh S

            Please provide evidence for your assertion.

          • Suburban Not Urban

            I guess I was off by 4% or if you raise the bar from $0 to a pittance.

            For a more detailed breakdown

        • Zoning Victim

          Straw Man / Fallacy of Extension for obvious reasons, and a Bad Analogy since the money Romney receives is already taxed at the corporate rate of 35% before it’s taxed at his 15% rate.

          Furthermore, the problem is really overstated. A person has $50,000 in taxable income, which assuming we’re talking about a single person taking the standard deduction means they had a salary in the neighborhood of $63,000 (well above average), will pay approximately $8,530 in taxes, which is 17% of their taxable income.

          I we drop that to a salaried individual taking the standard deduction and making $50,000 in salary, their taxable income is $37,500, they pay $5,405 in taxes, which represents 14.4% of their income.

          As much as people are trying to make it sound like Romney pays a lower percentage of income tax on his taxable income than the average person in the US (whose median income is $32,140, well below our fictitious test subjects above), that notion doesn’t seem to pan out when one calculates the average American’s tax burden.

          My numbers on tax brackets come from Wikipedia and my numbers for standard/personal deductions come from irs.gov.
          Taxable income was determined by backing out 5.5% for FICA and Medicare (pulled out pre-tax and not included in income tax), then subtracting $3,800 for the personal exemption and $5,900 for the standard deduction.

          • Josh S

            Obviously, discussions about how much tax is paid are easy to muddy, given the way the tax brackets work. You’ve got one tax rate up to a certain amount of income, another for the next chunk, etc. Once you’re done, you can figure what you actually paid, divide it by what you actually made, and get your effective tax rate.

            Mixing any two of these numbers in the same discussion is just a recipe for confusion.

            I don’t really know the details of Romney’s situation or much care. But in general I think the unfairness for the rich is that an increasing percentage of their income is delivered to them in ways that are taxed at a very low rate (capital gains, carried interest, etc.) not to mention the greater number of exemptions/shelters/credits/loopholes that they and their well-paid accountants / lawyers / investment gurus can cook up for them. That and the fact that the top tax rates were cut and remain cut at a time when we’ve got serious deficit / debt issues. Which then result in cutting social services, none of which the rich take advantage of so they don’t feel the pain or care about the loss.

            And you have the sheer numbers issue – with the 1% maintaining 30 or 40% of the wealth while the masses have little or nothing. In that scenario, it’s not too hard to see why any arguments along the line of – work harder – come off as “Let Them Eat Cake.”

          • The rich are hardly stuffing Benjamins in their mattresses, not putitng their wealth to work. They put the money into businesses, which create jobs. They put money into banks, which keeps them liquid and allows for loans.

            If it is true that 1% have 40% of the wealth (cite your reference please), then the 1% you want to take it from is the group you want to invest it to create jobs, etc. Make the environment such that they want to distribute it through investment, just don’t take it from them like Robin Hood.

          • Josh S

            Well, one response to your last sentence might be: why not?

            But that would be frivolous.

            It’s probably not 40%, but it’s somewhere above 30%. Again, it depends on how you define it.

            The thing is that the private sector cannot / does not provide society with everything it needs. The public sector exists, in part, to provide for the general welfare of all. The rich certainly benefit just as much as anyone from these services (infrastructure, common defense, environmental regulations, etc.) if not more. Actually, probably more. In fact, let’s drop the “probably” – the rich benefit more than the masses from the services provided by government. They should pay more. And they certainly can afford to pay more, relative to the masses.

            The trickle down, engines of economic growth argument is fairly meritless, I think. Tax cuts for the wealthy have not resulted in some sort of economic nirvana in the US – quite the opposite. In fact, if we look back over the last century or so the period of greatest widespread prosperity – the 50s and 60s corresponds to a period of generally high taxes on the rich. Eisenhower sought not to lower taxes, he wanted to raise them. Build the interstates, keep government debt down, provide for Veteran’s services like the GI Bill, etc.

          • Zoning Victim

            We could always stop taxing the corporations at 35% and then tax all personal income the same. Of course, we’ll lose tax revenue doing that, but at least our businesses will be more competitive and we can stop fussing about who pays what percent and decide what percent of the GDP is reasonable for our government to spend and then set the tax brackets accordingly.

        • I don’t pay 80% of my income to taxes. But, I am fine with Romney paying 15% while I pay a higher percentage. Why? Because his tax rate is defined by the fact that his income is almost exclusivly capital gains. He’s a rich guy (God forbid) who keeps his money invested in the economic engine that is so anemic right now. If he had a higher tax rate, more money would be taken from the fuel of that already anemic engine and be given to the Federal Government where they would proceed to promptly waste it. Yes, I am PERFECTLY fine with his 15% capital gains tax rate.

          • Josh S

            I hate to say it, but that strikes me as a degree of faith that is remarkably naive.

          • SouthPikeGuy

            What, you talking down to someone? You absolutely LOVE that. Stop lying.

  • Rick

    Keep voting Democrat!

  • susan

    Mark Kelly and Libby Garvey attended last night’s County Board meeting but chose not to speak. (I understand Audrey Clement was out of town visiting her seriously ill sister). So there was no call for fiscal restraint and responsibility by the Democratic or Republican candidate for County Board.

    • Tabs

      Good to know, thanks.

    • Mark Kelly

      I have made public statements urging the Board to reject a tax increase since last week when the County Manager first proposed it, including a statement on my website last week, and a press release regarding last nights meeting which was sent to the media earlier today.

      I was at the County Board meeting last night to listen to what people who are not candidates for the a seat on the Board had to say. Unfortunately, it was clear from the scripted way the Board handled the announcement that this decision, like many others by the Board, was made long before Arlingtonians had an opportunity to speak.

      • South Awwwlington

        Democrat for Kelly right here.

        It seems that EVERYTHING the Board does is damn rubber stamp.

        If I told them the sky was made of gold and Donellan agreed, they would endorse it.

        • Throw the (County Board) bums out

          Wasn’t the property tax rate in 2009 $0.865 (and that was a big uptick from prior years)?

  • Tom

    No complaints here

    • Burger

      Yes, yes, we are all wealthier because our houses have appreciated and should be shorn like the sheep we are. Good grief.

      • Tabs

        Speak for yourselves.

        • Burger

          My point was based with my tongue firmly in my cheek. there is a poster here that because a house’s county-assessed price goes up equates to you being more wealthy, thus, it is okay if your taxes go up.

          i think that position is economic fantasyland.

          • Josh S

            Your alternative?

  • South Awwwlington

    I want to know which candidate will piss of the majority to most and expose those who are puppets – Kelly, Garvey or Clemment.

    And if we are to accept the mantle of Most Affordable Housing Units per capita in VA – it should include the higher end of the range (70 & 80 AMI). My uneducated guess would be that the kick backs and subsidies for the developers are greater for 40, 50, 60% – why else would we only be building it for this population and ignoring the rest?

  • Vicente Fox

    I want to pay more to Arlington schools so we can afford the home schooled athletes.

  • Homeowner

    Absolutely shameful and not a bit surprising.

  • Cindy

    I would like to know who sent letters to the County Board asking the tax rate be raised. Same people who attend County Board meetings in a group asking their expensive recreation projects be funded?

  • Throw the (County Board) bums out

    Where is the tax cut? The County Board justified raising taxes during the recession because property values fell. Now that property values have risen (some by much much more than 6%) where is the corresponding tax cut?

  • TooEasy

    So the County Board wants to raise our real estate tax to pay for affordable housing that isn’t taxed.

  • mickey644

    There is nothing like being a Conservative Republican and sitting back and watching Socialist Arlington County spend on “green initiatives”, low income housing for everyone, legal or not, special housing for low income seniors, Artisphere, bike trails, new intersections, new traffic lights, and the list goes on. Meanwhile, the roads have potholes over a year old, roads are old and breaking up, etc. AND they decide to raise taxes in the face of higher revenues which puts it up about 10% this year….and the County Commissioners are scrambling for places to spend spend spend! Why not a novel approach and cut taxes by 20% and live within the budget?

  • Ho hum

    If the Arlington GOP had any organization, they could get Kelly elected on the rising taxes argument. Instead, the Democrats will use this to get out of the vote for their own base.

    • southarlington

      I think if enough people are mad enough and fed up with the way the County Board is run they will vote for Mark…some Dem’s , god forbid, will have to pull the lever for a “R”…and I hope a lot will because it will be the same stuff if Libby gets in there. There needs to be a new voice to question what this board is doing.

      • Plunkitt

        Seriously…….this is the best chance to get the CB’s attention.

  • MC

    This process is nutty. There is already a proposed budget (with a big rise in affordable housing expenses, school expenses, and costs for a new county building at Court House), and also a proposed tax rate increase needed to cover that spending based on the new higher assessments. But the Board then wants additional wiggle room (over $10 million) to cover additional expenses not planned for in the proposed budget? What on earth would cause these expenses to to materialize between now and when the budget is passed? Are they counting on some savings somewhere that might not materialize? A more sensible approach would be to cap spending at a certain amount, and defund new defund new obligations if there is a shortfall in real revenues.

    • Burger

      just a hunch. but, I would guess they are trying to build a surplus up to make the argument that the county has enough funds to build the columbia pike trolley.

      • Josh S

        There’s already a surplus, or reserve. It’s fairly common practice to build a reserve as it makes your creditworthiness much higher. In other words, it’s actually fiscally prudent. I’m fairly certain the county would have as one budgetary goal to build up a reserve even if there was no thoughts about a trolley. But given that it’s a fairly safe bet that the population will continue to grow, it’s necessary occasionally to build more stuff – you know, schools and the like.

        I’m not saying that the “additional wiggle room” refered to above is in this category.

        • Throw the (County Board) bums out

          Continued growth in population should allow a lower tax rate, not a higher one. The same government service cost would theoretically be charged to more people, and therefore a lower rate would allow the same in receivables.

          It is disgusting that the County Board raised taxes during a recession, never made hard choices about cutting real spending, and now seeks additional money.

          • Josh S

            Mr. Anachronism –

            I think you’ve overlooked a key point.

            Increased population results in increased service costs.

            P.S. I don’t know how you’d measure a recession at the county level but I’m guessing that Arlington County never experienced one.

          • Suburban Not Urban

            Buts that’s BS on an incremental basis the first person costs alot the 1 millionth costs a lot less – Since you seem to forget that theoretically that increase pop. pay taxes too.

      • Saul

        The trolley is DOA under the current Congress.


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