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New Budget Includes Tax Hike, Add’l Housing Funds

The Arlington County Board has passed a $1.052 billion budget that will cost the average homeowner an additional $13 per month, while providing additional funding for affordable housing, schools, maintenance and county employee raises.

The Board voted unanimously on Saturday to pass the budget with a 1.3 cent increase in the real estate tax rate for Financial Year 2013. The county tax rate will now be $0.971 for every $100 in assessed real estate value. The tax hike will be partially offset by a $32 decrease in trash and recycling fees, to $294 per year. Taking into account rising real estate assessments, the overall tax and fee burden for the average Arlington homeowner will increase by 2.4 percent, or about $155 per year, according to the county.

County Manager Barbara Donnellan had recommended the tax rate increase be limited to 0.5 cents in her $1.03 billion proposed budget.

The new budget includes a 5.1 percent increase in funding for Arlington Public Schools. The $405.1 million school budget transfer will assist the school system in addressing its current student capacity crisis, while a separate $1.9 million reserve fund, created via 0.3 cents of the 1.3 cent tax hike, will help pay for a possible state mandate of additional contributions to the Virginia Retirement System.

Among other spending priorities the new budget addresses, the county’s housing programs will see significant funding increases. The Board added $2.8 million in one-time finding to the County Manager’s proposed $6.7 million contribution to the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund. In addition to $9.5 million for the affordable housing fund, the Board added $2.2 million to the county’s Housing Grants Program. The program, which provides rent subsidies for older adults, people with disabilities and working families with children, will now receive $8.6 million in funding in FY 2013.

County employees will get raises as a result of the new adopted budget. The budget includes $3.9 million for employee merit step increases and a new, higher top salary step. On average, county employees will get a 2.8 percent raise — with the goal of “keeping County salaries competitive with surrounding jurisdictions,” according to a press release. County Board members themselves will have their pay raised by 2.3 percent.

The budget adds $4.7 million in funding for maintenance of county facilities and infrastructure, $2.8 million of which is new ongoing funding. The money will address what’s being described as a backlog of maintenance and repairs that has “built up over the years.”

“We are fortunate here in Arlington that our financial foundation is strong, even as others across the nation cope with continued economic uncertainty,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a statement. “The FY2013 Budget builds on the Board’s direction to the Manager to pay particular attention to three critical areas of County need: affordable housing, compensation, capital maintenance. With this Budget, we have taken significant steps forward in each of these areas, and we intend to continue making progress in these areas with each subsequent budget.”

Other budget items of note include $442,996 to restore branch library operating hours to pre-recession levels and $60,000 to add extra policing to the Clarendon business district. The Board also added funding to a number of nonprofit community groups, including the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC), Arlingtonians Meeting Emergency Needs (AMEN), the Arlington Free Clinic, the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN), and BU-GATA tenants association.

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