Manager’s Proposed Budget to Include 3.2 Cent Tax Hike

by ARLnow.com February 19, 2013 at 3:45 pm 2,434 187 Comments

Barbara Donnellan speaking before the Arlington County Civic Federation(Updated at 4:00 p.m.) Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan will propose a 3.2 cent real estate tax rate hike when she outlines her proposed budget to the County Board Wednesday afternoon, ARLnow.com has confirmed.

Donnellan’s recommendation, if approved by the County Board, would raise the overall tax rate to 100.3 cents per $100 in assessed value for residential property. It would be the first time since 2001 that Arlington’s residential tax rate has crossed the $1 mark.

Donnellan is expected to tell the Board tomorrow that the county is facing increased expenses as a result of more public school students and more county facilities — like the Arlington Mill Community Center — that must be staffed and programmed. At the same time, county tax revenue is flat as commercial property assessments feel the effects of BRAC, which has resulted in numerous Department of Defense offices moving out of Arlington.

Residential real estate tax rates in Arlington 1986-2012 (graph by ARLnow.com)On Friday, Donnellan announced 46 job cuts as part of her effort to close a $25-50 million gap in the upcoming county budget. She has said that her recommended budget will include both spending cuts and tax hikes.

While a rate of 100.3 cents may seem high compared to Arlington’s 81.8 cent rate just six years ago, for tax year 2007, it is not the highest rate county taxpayers have paid in recent memory. In 2000 and 2001, the rate was 102.3 cents.

It’s also lower than some neighboring jurisdictions. This past year, Arlington’s rate was $0.971 per $100 in assessed value, compared to:

  • Fairfax County: $1.075
  • Loudoun County: $1.235
  • Prince William County: $1.209
  • City of Alexandria: $0.998
  • City of Falls Church: $1.270
  • District of Columbia: $0.850
  • Montgomery County: $0.838
  • Prince George’s County: $1.072

The County Board may, as it has done in the past, set a different rate than the manager’s recommendation. Last year, the Board approved a 1.3 cent tax rate increase, to the current 97.1 cents, after Donnellan recommended a 0.5 cent increase. In 2011, however, the Board agreed with Donnellan’s recommendation and held the tax rate steady from the year prior, at 95.8 cents.

Arlington’s overall real estate tax rate includes a 1.3 cent tax for stormwater management. For commercial properties, the county imposes a 12.5 cent Transportation Capital Fund tax on top of the residential rate.

Hat tip to Wayne Kubicki

  • WL95

    What are the logistics of decoupling the commercial property rate and the residential property rate?

    • Wayne Kubicki

      I believe decoupling would take an amendment to the VA state constitution.

      • WL95

        I figured it was something right near the top of the “not in my lifetime” list. Thanks.

    • Dezlboy

      Can you explain what you mean by decoupling commercial rate and residential rate? I assumed they each paid a different rate. Do you mean they are always the same? thanks.

      • Jeff

        Decoupling is making it so the commercial and residential rates are NOT the same. Both classes do currently pay the same rate. It doesn’t make any sense to me since both receive different services from the county, but per Wayne’s comment, I guess we can’t blame this one on local government.

        • Dezlboy

          @Jeff,,,,,,thanks for the explanation of decoupling. (and keeping it clean! 🙂 )

  • Chris

    I’m perfectly happy to pay more taxes. Arlington County is providing great services, and it is one of the best places to live in the country.

    Haters gonna hate, but I’m happy with the County.

    • B

      Feel free to pay for mine.

    • Huh

      Just out of curiosity, can you provide examples of the “great services” you are receiving ??

      • DCBuff

        Well, the Commissioner of the Revenue does a great job sending out tax bills…

      • Jimmy Ratz

        How about that leaf pick up service? Even Fairfax doesn’t do that for anyone.

        • Audrey

          Fairfax County picks up leaves, trash, recycling, etc.

          • Jimmy Ratz

            Not without paying a private company. I know this because I live here. I pay for what I get, its not just FREE.

          • Jimmy Ratz

            Nope. I pay for my services from AAA trash. The county allows them to operate here and provide a minimum of service. I don’t even NEED to use them if I had no problem dumping my own trash at the waste facility.

          • Honey Boo-Boos Dad?

            “I don’t even NEED to use them if I had no problem dumping my own trash at the waste facility.”

            Maybe you’d be happier living in West Virginia. Arlingtonians realize that with trash service, you don’t have cheap rednecks not disposing of their trash or dumping it in someone’s else dumpster.

        • C

          I don’t know about Fairfax, but Fairfax City’s trash and leaf collection services are far superior to Arlington’s!

      • Bange

        Top tier schools is the most obvious.

        • Greg

          Unless your kid is going to school in a trailer, then you probably don’t feel that way….

          • Lee-n-Glebe

            My kid is in a trailer. I don’t mind it. Neither, as far as I can tell, do the teachers (each room has its own thermostat, which they really like) or the students. I don’t think it’s ideal, but it’s not like the 10th ring of hell or anything.

          • b0rk

            I had classes in a trailer back in high school for a few years. No big deal unless you make it a big deal. In fact, I think my teacher liked it more because he had more privacy and less interruptions while teaching.

          • Josh S

            Yeah, gosh, I can’t see how being in a trailer classroom or being inside the building makes that big of a difference.
            (I have taught in both and have had a child in both.)

          • Westover5

            Yorktown still has trailers?

          • drax

            The trailers are nothing like the ones they had when we were kids. Now they have indoor plumbing, good heat, smartboards, etc. – in some ways they are better than the old classrooms in the school building.

      • drax
    • Jim

      I assume you aren’t a home owner. My property taxes are nearly as high as my Mortagage payments. The size of county govt is just out of sync.

      • CW

        If you are saying that your annual property tax payment is equal to the sum of twelve monthly mortgage payments then you need to cash in, amigo! Go retire on a beach somewhere!

        • R. Griffon

          My thoughts exactly. If we assume a .01003 tax rate (the newly proposed, higher one), then your taxes on a $1M property (ASSESSED, which is typically well below market in my experience), then that’s $10,030/yr. in taxes, or about $836/mo. This is roughly equivalent to making 30-year mortgage payments on a $220,000 home at 4% with 20% down.

          If you’re living in a $1M home that you managed to buy for $220K, then CW’s absolutely right – cash out the equity on that thing and retire already! (Or, alternatively, just admit that this post was a gross exaggeration.)

          • No wonder Obama won

            You two have no clue on taxes, finances and delayed gratification.

            First, it takes a million dollars, at 5% interest, to earn $50,000 in a year. That doesn’t account for inflation. In reality for retirement, you should aim for a 8% return, live off of 4% and the other 4% will be used to adjust for taxes and inflation.

            Two, using R Griffon’s numbers (I’ll ignore the fact not everyone has a 4% mortgage). But, if he bought his home for 220,000 twenty years ago and decide to sell today for $1.0 million. That nets him $780,000. Awesome, jim can life off of the $39,000 generated by that amount…(I sure hope Jim doesn’t want to do anything).

            But, that 780K isn’t what he takes home because he has to pay capital gains tax on that sale (I’ll ignore the transactional costs). If he is single, he only gets to exclude the first 250 from being taxed. So, he loses approximately $126,000 to Uncle Sam…that $780K is now $654…oh, and he still has to live someone, pay rent/mortgage, etc.

            So, just admit this post lacks personal finance skills.

          • Rory

            Their main point, that the original poster was grossly exaggerating his real estate tax vs his mortgage, is absolutely on the mark.

          • You need a new accountant

            So, he loses approximately $126,000 to Uncle Sam

            No way capital gains tax on 780K is $126,000.

          • Ricardo

            “You need a new accountant” is correct.

            Until the end of 2012, tax on a cap gain of $780K would have been $117,000. As of 2013, the tax is now $171,600.

          • Ricardo

            Sorry, didn’t realize the $780K figure didn’t include the $250K deduction. $780K less the $250K deduction is $530K, the tax on which would be $116,600.

    • Courthouse diva

      i love Arlington County too, however, they don’t always spend the money they have well, i.e., the proliferation of speed bumps throughout the county.

    • arlimprov

      Pay mine too. I don’t want that mammoth Aquatic Center or the Million $ dog park in Clarendon that is taking over a year to build. It’s for god-damn dogs. Homeless shelters in my backyard…nah…I’m not happy with it.

    • In the Dark

      The street light across the street from my house has been out since the first of December. I have submitted 3 online requests on the county website, left a voice mail, and talked to a real person. Here it is, mid February and still no street light. I don’t think the services are so great. What’s the next step? The County board???
      If they can’t fix a street light, how can they maintain overhead wires for a trolley?

      • EG

        I’ve been complaining about one since October. It just got fixed. Pester the Director of DES for a couple of weeks, and that will hopefully work.

      • Lucifer

        Depends upon what kind of street light it is. If it is a cobra or colonial, the light is owned operated and managed by Dominion. They take their time in replacing lights. The County has no control over Dominion.

        • In the Dark

          It’s a Carlyle style.

  • Greg

    “It’s also lower than some neighboring jurisdictions. This past year, Arlington’s rate was $0.971 per $100 in assessed value, compared to…”

    We also have a lot more of those “per $100s” compared to similar properties in the farther out burbs.

    • Suburban Not Urban

      Stated alternately, if you look at it on a /acre, median home basis or /household, or per service recieved , the AC rate looks a lot worse.

      • BBMS

        Funny how creating a dense, walkable urban environment is supposed to make everything about people’s lives so much more efficient. Except somehow the cost of government keeps going up.

        • speonjosh

          I suspect that even clerks in Peoria are making more than they were in years past. The cost of government goes up pretty much everywhere.
          In any case, talking about the cost of government after discussing Smart Growth is a bit of a non sequitor. The efficiencies that you enjoy in terms of avoiding traffic, lower transportation costs, greater availability of nearby goods and services, etc aren’t supposed to mean that you pay less in property taxes.

      • Alex

        Precisely. It’s not a fair comparison without all the variables.

    • ChefJ

      EGGGZactly Greg!!! And is isn’t like the county doesn’t set the assessment rate. Was there really an effort to hint at Arlington having a lower real estate tax burden than other jurisdictions? What a farce.

  • Not Me

    Ms. Donnellan ought to be able to cover that increase nicely with her recent 10K raise, while this represents just another chip off the old disposible income block for the rest.

    • Mike

      Ms Donnellan doesn’t even live in the County, so the rate we end up with isn’t exactly her problem. I’m sure her raise will help her out in many ways, however.

      • Not Me

        Thank you for the info. This angers me grately.

        There is something inherently wrong with levying a tax to which you yourself will not be subjected to.

        • Alex

          Yes, that is a real problem. If you manage the county, you really should have a stake in it. I’m very concerned that these raises were passed secretively, at the same time employees will be fired and the county is raising taxes — all while keeping the pet projects alive and well. Priorities a bit off?

        • drax

          The county manager doesn’t levy taxes. The County Board does. They are all elected, and they all live in the county.

          • Alex

            Be that as it may, Ms. Donnellan does not live in Arlington and has suggested cutting spending and raising taxes.

    • ChefJ


  • novasteve

    Thank god it will go to the fiscally reponsible people who want 80 million dollar pools and street cars so they can pretend they are in europe.

    • DCBuff

      Prague on the Potomac, Steve, Prague on the Potomac.

    • Jimmy

      I like pools and street cars. I voted for them, too. Glad to see a jurisdiction responsive to the voters and the citizens. Some people care more about their property tax than having a nice progressive community, but I’m not one of them.

      • Quoth the Raven

        What exactly is a “progressive community”?

        • novasteve

          I’m sure he just wishes ARlington had the power to tax or ban plastic bags. That would be so progressive.

          • DieBagsDie

            What is wrong with a plastic bag tax or ban, they have proven to work, and get this, you can choose not to pay them by bringing your own bag. I hope VA and Arlington take this up soon, would be great for the county.

          • Hee-Haw

            because its something that doesn’t need to be banned.

          • Tax Tax Tax

            Why is it that people think taxing plastic bags will make the populace use fewer of them and that taxing cigarettes more heavily will make people smoke less, but raising taxes won’t make people flee to other places with less of a tax burden?

          • speonjosh

            Hee-Haw: Says who?

            TTT: Because moving involves a hugely greater effort than choosing to not use a plastic bag?

          • Hee-Haw

            @s p e o n: says anyone with common sense. Just give people choices instead of banning something cause someone doesn’t like it.

          • speonjosh

            Ah yes, someone calling himself Hee Haw has the monopoly on common sense. Quite.

          • Kat

            @DieBagsDie How have they been “proven” to work? Has someone done a comprehensive study of the number of bags used before a bag tax and after a bag tax was implemented? I know places in DC that simply adjusted prices slightly and simply give you a bag unless you say otherwise. Sure, some places ask, but many do not.

            If people in Arlington want to save a nickle per bag, they can bring their own. Both Giant and Harris-Teeter will will give you a five cent discount for each bag you bring or don’t use. (I’ve seen it calculated both ways.)

          • speonjosh

            Kat –

            Yeah, the District bag law has been in place for three years and businesses report a sharp drop in the number of plastic bags used by customers.

            It worked. And it worked because it is so simple.

        • DCBuff

          One where the property tax bills progress ever higher.

          • Dan

            “One where the property tax bills progress ever higher.”

            Good one !!

      • User Tax

        If you want to be progressive then make those luxuries that you want subject to every other luxury out there and let it stand on its own two feet. If it can’t pay for itself via user fees from the progressive community then maybe it isn’t as necessary as you think (or the community is less progressive)

        • speonjosh

          User taxes that completely cover the cost of government-provided services (including many that you make use of on a daily basis) are exceedingly rare.

          • Ricardo

            Correct. This is why they are generally not a good idea, and why critics are justified in calling them “fraudulent” (as they are often marketed to voters as though they are self-sustaining).

        • tce

          @User Tax:… I agree… user fees for everything! Why should I pay for schools when I don’t have kids?? One Florida county a few years ago voted zero money for their school system because they packed the county board with the elderly (they were the majority residents…)… never heard the out come of the law suit that was brought though.

          • will my kids be paying your

            retirement costs, plus taking care of you…so you might want to be more grateful and understand the long term issues.

            And, as I mentioned, I was talking about luxuries…a 80 million dollar swimming pool is a luxury. A trolley that will cost in excess of 250 million not including operating costs is a luxury. Education, police, trash pick-up, long library hours…are not luxuries but basic services. Thus, a user fee should be used to pay for something that is deemed unnecessarey in light of 50 million dollar deficit.

      • What’s Progressive?

        What the @!_$ is “progressive” about the pool and the streetcar? If by progressive you mean social justice, you may want to see how many blue collar people are going to pay several hundred bucks a month to swim at a luxury pool. It won’t be free admission. And then see how many apartments they can no longer afford on Columbia Pike because of the streetcar. This two projects are completely anti-democratic. The pool itself is the brainchild of like, 3 former college swimmers. The board is using a torturous funding scheme for the streetcar so that it doesn’t have to bring the funding up as a bond issue to voters.

    • Rover

      don’t forget the Million dollar dog parks…

    • CW

      All I’m going to say is that I find it really funny how some people like to get all crazy about some parts of the Constitution but then get all upset about other parts of it. The framers drafted a system of representative democracy. That system seems to be playing out here. Elected officials are representing the desires of their constituents. Voters elect them into office. Voters pass bond referenda. Voters see the work the officials are doing. Then voters re-elect or replace them. Even if it doesn’t turn out well – if we end up insolvent or something – the system is still working the way it’s supposed to. And, if you feel the representation needs to be changed, then by all means organize and campaign. But don’t just complain – the system is working in that the constituents are being heard. The rest is all just sour grapes.

      • Patrick

        I would say that having all at large board members is more akin to mob rule.

        • speonjosh

          So, are the US Senators that are elected by the people of the entire state the same thing – mob rule? If not, where would you, logically, draw the line? I submit that you can’t logically draw such a line that defines this set of elected representatives as “mob rule” and this other set as not “mob rule.”

          • Patrick

            Are you really that obtuse? Considering each state receives two senators regardless of population or geography I would actually say that the US senate is the opposite of mob rule.

          • CW

            Sure they can, Josh. It’s how these people work. They say they believe in something like “The Constitution” or “representative democracy” but in actuality they just want to cherry-pick the pieces that suit their needs.

          • speonjosh

            Patrick – huh? I’m failing to grasp your overall point of view on this issue. Should Arlington only have two board members and that would mean it’s no longer mob rule?

            CW – huh? Who are “these people?”

  • Allan

    That graph right there tells me that they monkey around with this way too much and don’t have a long-term outlook. Way too reactionary.

    WEHT “slow and steady never lost the race”?

    • Jeff

      Agree completely, but I’m sure a lot of this is our (collectively) fault. We complain about the taxes being too high, so the first opportunity they have, they lower the taxes to appease the residents. So instead of keeping a nice even rate to put money away when costs are low for years when costs go up, we are constantly jerking it around. Although I’m sure the government habit of “if we have money, we’ll spend it” doesn’t help either.

    • speonjosh

      I wonder if there is any reason we couldn’t all just randomly choose to abbreviate portions of our sentences? Just sort of invent acronyms as we go? That’d be awesome wouldn’t it?

  • JamesE

    more taxes, more streetcars for dogs that go to a waterpark

    • CW

      Open-top streetcar dog wash tunnel? Now I think we’re gettingg somewhere.

      • Dezlboy

        Hey, stop with those anti-dog comments! Someone (see pic) is getting upset. And you know how those beagle-mutts get when they get upset! 🙂 I don’t want to lose anymore fingers!

        • arlimprov

          Can he really tell the difference between an empty lot and a Million dollar dog park? I’m guess he’d prefer the former…

          • Dezlboy

            @arlimprov, you have a point. My beagle-mutt can’t tell the difference between a t-bone steak and a two week old moldy out-in-the-rain slice of pizza! Cause he eat’s both. 🙂

  • PeterofArlington

    Sound like the perfect fiscal time to build a trolley/street car/ rail down Columbia Pike!

  • Johnny K

    Arlingtonians also pay WAY more car tax than Fairfax(ites?). Arlington subsidizes 30% (unless you own a hybrid) whereas Fairfax subsidizes 63%. I’ve yet to encounter anyone who can explain why the Personal Property Tax Relief Act gives more to Fairfax than Arlington.

    • DCBuff

      Don’t forget: we pay the $30 sticker fee, they don’t (no sticker).

      • Mike

        Um, actually Fairfax residents DO pay a sticker fee, they just don’t get a sticker. Go figure.

        • Not hard to figure

          Arlington has a sticker so that if you don’t put it on your car in a certain timeframe then they can ticket you. It really is there to tax the lazy.

          • ChefJ


    • Jimmy Ratz

      Build more metro trains in my area of FFX and maybe my car tax subsidy will drop.

    • AL

      Look at little more closely:

      From Fairfax County’s website:
      “At present, the State pays approximately 63% of the bill, and the taxpayer pays the remaining 37%. These rates are subject to change annually. The taxpayer must pay the full amount of taxes on any vehicle assessment that exceeds $20,000.”

      Any vehicle worth more than $20,000 receives NO TAX RELIEF. So basically the people with the nice cars are subsidizing PPT on crapboxes. Glad it’s not that way in Arlington!

      • Johnny K

        It’s the same in Arlington: value under $3000 pays no car tax, $3001-$20000 gets the state subsidy, and anything over $20000 gets no subsidy. I’m just wondering why the state subsidizes cars in Fairfax (63%) more than cars in Arlington (30%). Metro can’t be the answer b/c they’re building the Silver Line and that hasn’t affected Fairfax’s rate (much).

        • Greg

          That doesn’t look the same to me. Looks like Arlington gives more subsidy towards cheap cars, whereas Fairfax spreads it around.

          • Johnny K

            My mistake, I thought Fairfax didn’t have to pay for values under $3000 either.

      • Artie Fufkin

        Cars worth more than $20k still get tax relief. The amount between $3,000 and S20,000 is subsidized. The amount that is over S20,000 is taxed at the full rate. If your car is worth $25,000, you are only taxed fully on $5,000.

    • HP2000

      It is the way Arlington divides up the subsidy based on the value/type of car you own. FFX is more even handed with how they divide the subsidy.

      • speonjosh

        Strictly value, not type.

    • G

      The total amount each locality receives from the state was set a few years ago when the state capped the total amount reimbursed to localities. Since each county’s funding from the state was based on its share of total personal property tax collections from that year, Fairfax officials made a heavy push to get as many delinquent accounts settled in order to increase their share of the total.

    • Jim Gilmore

      LOL. I got elected by fooling the anti-tax crowd into thinking I would repeal the car tax. Suckers!

  • Spendthrift

    If they want to shore up a deficit, they ought to scrap the stupid trolley car idea and maybe, I don’t know…. delay the bazillion dollar swimming pool? I mean, I can’t wait to use the pool but if we can’t afford it right now, we can’t afford it right now. Don’t raise my taxes and fired people just because you have an architecture plan in place. Change the plan! And for the love of pete, scrap the stupid trolley plan!! And ohbytheway…you (the county) are complaining about staffing the new community center? Well, hello… maybe you should’ve thought about that before you built it. wth?

  • BBMS

    Remember when they cut back the library hours to save money, but had to reinstate them because people complained? Because those are the types of services people want and expect the government to afford?

    I get the feeling they are behind the curve in their projections of revenue and expenditures. What were the figures for that recent capital improvement plan? It was in the billions I think. I get the feeling they are not tracking the slow accretion of recurring costs associated with all this awesome new building they envision.

    • Suburban Not Urban

      Exactly – case in point – they refused to talk about the difference in maintenance cost for the solar system in the library vs a more conventional system. All they wanted to talk about was the fuel cost vs capital.

  • mickey644

    Manager? Well, MANAGE…..I can’t just write in a raise for myself like she is trying to do via increased taxes. I have to cut my budget if I am going to overspend. How about some responsibility here? Do what is right and cut the budget! Do your JOB! We don’t need to increase taxes, we need to cut.

    • speonjosh

      Says you.

  • Buckwheat

    Interesting comparing real estate tax rates to other counties.

    Figures don’t lie, but liars can figure.

    Montgomery County is supposed to be nice with comparable communities, schools, services, and quality of life. Why are they so much less expensive than ArlCo?

    Why don’t we look at the cost of government per capita for an apples to apples comp?

    • novasteve

      Moco has a local income tax.

    • AshtonOaks

      Montgomery County also levies a separate income tax in addition to the Maryland State income tax. Want that, too?

      • Alex

        Already have something like that if you are a business in Arlington you pay on your gross revenues. Then you pay for your business tangible property. Then you pay for your business license. It’s a bit much for small businesses. If there was an income tax on top of all that… yeah, that’d be too much.

  • FedUp

    Well, once again I will face an overall INCREASE in my actual residential tax liability as an Arlington homeowner. Oddly, despite the rise and fall of my assessed values since I purchased property in 2004, I have seen only INCREASES in the actual amount of taxes I pay. This, coupled with constant INCREASES in the costs for ‘fees’ such as water, sewer, and trash pickup has me wondering — just how much does Arlington think it can tax me? Unlike some County workers I have not seen my pay increase “automatically”. Instead, as a small business owner I struggle to make ends meet during the economic downturn. Fairfax is beginning to look nice — and Maryland even more so.
    Thus the price of one party rule (and I consider myself aligned with the Democratic Party).

  • Let’s Be Free

    So glad I moved out of Arlington last year. Am living in twice the house and paying $3,500 less in property taxes alone. Enjoy the stay!

    • Cletis

      Nice to know that you are, however, still trolling the Arlington sites from your new abode. Admit it, you miss it.

    • R. Griffon

      To each their own. Enjoy the commute!

    • drax

      Thanks – enjoy the two hour commute and Applebees!

    • Yes, let’s be free

      Oooh, this might hurt.

      “Living may actually be cheaper in the region’s core

      The classic rule of thumb, “drive ’till you qualify,” holds that the farther you go from a city center, the cheaper the cost of living. But a new report shows how in the DC area, housing near the core and near transit stations can be cheaper when transportation costs are factored in.”


      • Let’s Be Free

        Could you please send me a third parent so we can chaperone our kids everywhere they go in your public transit utopia? Thanks. They really, incredibly enjoy the space, the yard and the recreational opportunities. There’s more to life than clogging up your arteries and killing brain cells at neighborhood bistros. You people are so full of yourselves, you don’t even see it how out of touch your once size fits all mania is. Good riddance.

  • novasteve

    yoo hoo arlington county government tax lovers!!! maybe you can tell us our cars went up in value again so you can bilk us for more?

  • Whitney Wilson

    Here is what the County said about the change is assessed values for 2013:

    :After two consecutive years of double digit growth in the commercial tax base, CY 2013 values remain flat. Commercial properties continue to account for 49% of the County’s real estate tax base.

    “The impacts of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) in Crystal City and concerns about federal budget issues have affected commercial property values and will continue to do so over the next few years. Commercial property values decreased by -0.1%, to $30.4 billion, overall holding value even in an uncertain economic and political climate. Multi-family rental properties increased almost 1% while the rest of the commercial property types (office, retail, hotel) declined -0.5%.
    Residential real estate increases slightly

    “The average assessment for existing single-family properties, including condominiums, townhouses and detached homes, increased approximately 1.0%, from $519,400 in Calendar Year (CY) 2012, to $524,700 in CY 2013.

    “Each homeowner will receive an assessment reflecting the value of his or her property. The 1.0% average increase is just that — an average; 47% of residential owners will see no change in their assessment; 22% will see declines of varying amounts. Of the 31% with increased values, the amount also will vary. Variations in property assessments for 2013 reflect the diversity of Arlington’s neighborhood and housing stock. ”

    Apparently the overall assessed value for property in Arlington was flat for 2013 over 2012, including flat commercial property values. So the proposed increase in the tax rate means an increase in property tax revenues of approximately 3.3%. That doesn’t seem hugely excessive, but I’m pretty sure it greatly outpaces the inflation rate, and doesn’t take into account increases in county-imposed fees. There has been a pretty steady upward trajectory of county spending through the past 5 years, including both the county and schools. It would be nice if spending could occasionally remain flat or even drop!

    FY 2009 – $1.177B
    FY 2010 – $1.192B
    FY 2011 – $1.215B
    FY 2012 – $1.292B
    FY 2013 – $1.349B

    • Francisco Franco

      The impacts of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) in Crystal City and concerns about federal budget issues have affected commercial property values

      Well guess what? The sequester will impact many Arlington residents take-home pay, so give us a break too.

  • John Fontain

    As we all know, residential property values increased dramatically over the last decade. Average property values rose about 70% from 2002 to 2012. Putting aside the minor year to year variances in the tax rate, this means that the average homeowner’s property tax went up about 70%.

    The big picture question we should be asking the County Manager/County Board is what additional services have we gotten from this almost doubling of the absolute amount of taxes over the last decade?* Sure, inflation is a factor. But that would account for less than half of the 70% increase in taxes we’ve seen over the last 10 years (about 28%). So what do we have to show for the rest of the tax increases? How can the County justify a rate of increase in expenditures that is far outpacing the rate of inflation?

    *This analysis doesn’t include the growing tax base, which makes the situation even worse than the figures above indicate.

  • lowerlslower

    Dont like it, MOVE OUT OF ARLINGTON!!!!

    • Sam

      What a reasonable response.

      • ACDC Hack

        That is the “Arlington Way” !!

    • civil servant

      It’s not about liking it or not liking it. It’s an observation that we’ve been on basically a vertical trajectory of increased revenues (due to increased home values) and the Board just finds ways to spend it. I thought things were pretty good around here 20 years ago when we bought our house. I cannot say that our benefits have increased 70% in that time but I have observed a very gold plated approach to spending taxpayer money. Nothing appears to be too good or too expensive for both the CB and the SB…we really need our high schools to cost $110 M? Doesn’t that strike anyone as excessive? Every construction project seems to be the same way. It’s as if there’s no limit on the wish lists around here.

    • Ricardo

      How is that different from “move back to Africa”?

      • drax

        America – love it or leave it!

  • Jade Byrd

    Just curious why salary s in the county aren’t at a freeze. And don’t get me started about the Artispehere , Aquatics Center and trolley on Columbia Pike. Perhaps a freeze on spending might be helpful!

    • bobbytiger

      A “freeze on spending”? What a novel idea. Maybe in your own household, but the Arlington County government? Not a chance. Raising yours and my taxes is a much easier “solution”.

      • drax

        Most households don’t have long-term “freezes” on spending either.

    • civil servant

      Salaries for county employees ARE frozen. The CB has no problem freezing pay (for almost everyone) but demanding more work by fewer employees. This doesn’t even mention the pending cuts in positions that were just posted on Friday. Come on! Of course we can freeze pay…we just can’t stop our vanity projects. It’s wrong on many levels and this is nothing new. If you look at the pay over the past 10 years you will note that county employees’ pay (not schools so much) has essentially been flat and uncompetitive.

      • Wayne Kubicki

        County employees’ pay has been “essentially flat” over the past 10 years??

        Can you refer us to anything that says that?

      • Alex

        Well said!

  • Polk

    Boy, this thread sure did attract the cranky old men, who hate nice hings, because they cost money.

    • Sam

      As long as we are going to generalize….

      Boy this thread sure did attract a lot of 20 somethings who can’t differentiate between needs and wants.

    • Ricardo

      No, they hate paying for things they don’t want, need, or use.

      Most of the “stop whining our taxes aren’t that bad” crowd would scream to high heaven if you taxed them to build a Major League Baseball stadium in Arlington. I don’t see why they don’t understand that many of us have the same reaction to dog parks and swimming pools.

  • Lucifer Bernanke

    Property Tax is just more proof that you do not own your land, your car, etc. — you pay rent. And most of it goes straight to me and my cronies at the Fed bahahhaha

    • speonjosh

      *face palm*

      I’m as suspicious as the next guy about the Fed, but can we at least start from a firm understanding of how things work?

      • I have a M.S. in Finance from a Top 25 University…I’ve been studying this for years…trust me, it all boils down to the Fed screwing us royally. Check out my website for more info…til then…BUY GOLD 😉

        • drax

          Yeah, an MS in Finance couldn’t possibly be wrong!

        • Journolist

          a Top 25 University…as determined by fraudulent US News statistics.

          • Drax and “Journalist” — feel free to write an essay showing me how I’m incorrect and how the Federal Reserve loves us. Please, I beg you

        • Alex

          I actually find it rather amazing that people haven’t noticed the 97% devaluation of the dollar since the inception of the Federal Reserve, or been outraged by quantitative easing which effectively transfers money from savers to speculators. Not to mention massive bank bailouts that translated in to record bonuses, all while our country’s economy deteriorates on several key metrics (debt to GDP, GDP growth rate, industrial capacity/utilization). The only thing the Fed cares about, as evidenced by Alan Greenspan’s recent interview and decades of monetary policy, is asset prices. The dual mandate of stable employment and prices is a joke.

          • Lucifer Bernanke

            Thank you sir

      • If you don’t pay the annual

        taxes on your car, house, etc…you will not be living in that home or owning that car for very long. So, while poorly stated the devil is correct.

        however, the screed about the Fed while unoriginal makes me wonder what he wants to replace the Fed with…the question many of his type never seem to want to answer.

        • Lucifer Bernanke

          lol —- no one man knows what to ‘replace’ the Fed with but I’m 100% sure that open discussion IN PUBLIC FORUMS by the top financial and economic brains in our country would be much better than a secret, PRIVATE central bank run by the British Crown, Rothschilds, etc.

          Don’t you????

  • Mc

    We can’t count on increasing tax revenues from rising real estate. The biggest spending increases come from schools. We need to reduced per capita costs per pupil – it’s way out of line with the metro average.

    • Patrick

      +1 The Arlington school’s system performance is pathetic based on the amount they spend per pupil. Fairfax has better results while spending only 2/3 as much per pupil.

      • The Dope of South Arlington

        If they deported the illegals, enrollment would drop like a stone.

  • ACDC Hack

    “, who hate nice hings, because they cost money.”

    I bet that you flunked logic in school….

    • speonjosh

      The problem is that they don’t teach logic in school.

  • HockeyMom

    Why don’t you enforce the car tax – my street is filled with full-time residents who park on county streets with no stickers – 3700 Block of South 5th is a gold mine – if you would actually take the time to check…. (And yes, I have made multiple calls)

    • Lucifer Bernanke

      you snitch on people who don’t pay taxes? lol wow you are sad get a life

      • Greg

        you don’t snitch on people who take money from you? lol wow you are sad get a life

        • Take money from you?

          If you think people not paying the car tax is ‘taking money from you’ you need to get your priorities straight…in case you didn’t know, the Federal Reserve is buying $85 BILLION worth of REAL ASSETS with FAKE PRINTED MONEY every MONTH now THAT IS TAKING MONEY FROM ME you twit lol

          • drax

            If you thin your money is worthless, send it to me.

          • speonjosh

            Fake printed money – on the one hand, yes. On the other hand, all money, to some extent is “fake.” We collectively agree that one piece of paper with a 1 printed on it is worth X while another piece of paper with a 10 printed on it is worth Y.
            Real assets – you mean Treasury debt? Backed by the “fake printed money?”
            (Also, for all those who haven’t been paying attention, you need to adjust your rants – the Fed has far surpassed the Chinese as purchasers of US debt.)
            I think the $85 BILLION per MONTH might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I could be wrong.
            How is the fed’s purchase of Treasury debt taking money from you? What would happen if the fed didn’t purchase that debt?

          • It’s Zombie Money — still ‘alive’ but the dollar is DEAD — buy Gold/Silver/Firearms/Ammo/Food/Water ASAP; in that order; that’s going to be the new currency soon enough….

          • I meant in the OPPOSITE order lol — 3 month supply water, 3 month supply food, some ammo as currency, weapons for protection/investment, silver if you can afford it, Gold if you’re rich

          • Alex

            The $85B per month is a factual statistic:


            And all of this creation of new credit is problematic insofar as there is no economic activity behind it, nor is it driving sustainable economic activity.

          • speonjosh

            All right, $85B a month. Definitely a tremendous and disturbing number. It certainly seems unsustainable.

      • Not Me


  • RicoS

    I think that sometime this county government loses sight of the real world, and confuses what should be priorities with “nice to haves,” that are not important at all. To wit, schools, trash collection, parks, roads and emergency services are all things that should be priorities. Aquatic centers, trolleys and staffing recreation centers, simply are not important enough to merit increasing taxes. These are luxuries that should fall by the wayside when times are tough.

  • Kid Willard

    Very strange article (and comments). The County first decides how much tax in total to collect and then back calculates to get a rate. The rate is a distraction to how much the County collects and spends each year. What is missing from this article is the amount of taxes the County plans to collect and how that differs from last year. (As some others have noted, the gross amount of tax revenue has increased each year for many years.)

  • resident and teacher

    Yet another year where my taxes go up, my class sizes go up, but my salary stays flat. I would have figured that at least it should break even. Instead Arlington is just pushing me back… sigh…

    • Alex

      At least they gave the upper echelons of Arlington a pay raise. That makes everything okay!

  • GodFila

    We need to tighten the belt – and that does not mean eating
    and eating until the belt is tight (see picture above).

  • ……

    So this new indoor water park in crystal city they are planning on constructing is putting our money in good use ?!?! its like these board members are living in lala land and forget whats important, like they blind to see what the community really needs !

    • Chris L.

      More to the point, the County Board members seem to feel that they are now in a position of absolute power, immune to any serious political/reelection challenge and are thus free to pursue their own agendas and those of their core supporters. And why not as long as people in this County keep blindly reelecting them.

      • speonjosh

        I’m fairly certain someone must have patented this comment by now. You owe royalties.

      • drax

        Um, Chris? If people keep re-electing them, then of course they are free to pursue their agendas. The people WANT them to. That’s not absolute power, that’s democracy.

        Like so many sore losers, your entire argument comes down to “the people are stupid.” Maybe they are, but you’re not going to convince them to vote for someone else by callnig them stupid. You’ll feel all smug, but you won’t accomplish anything. Try harder.

        • Alex

          That’s a bit generous, don’t you think? They were not re-elected on the basis of building an aquatics center or raising taxes were they? Sure they’re free to pursue their agenda, but one has to wonder when the threshold will be reached that lifelong Dems will consider voting another party to the board just for a difference of opinion.

          • Pete B

            They hid the pool in the vague sounding “Parks Bond” last November even though the pool alone accounted for almost 90% of the bond. Civic association leaders asked them to break out the pool from the rest of the money and get it out there where voters could see it, but the Board said no. They knew that would be real democracy, and “the people” would call bullsh#t on it.

  • Chris L.

    “Donnellan is expected to tell the Board tomorrow that the county is facing increased expenses as a result of more public school students and more county facilities — like the Arlington Mill Community Center — that must be staffed and programmed.”

    Note that she conveniently avoids mentioning the Street Car, the Artisphere, and the Aquatics Center. 🙂

  • Abe Froman

    Why doesn’t she start by at least putting off if not outright nixing the Aquatic Center, the Columbia Pike and Crystal City street cars.

  • alex

    Unfortunate. Tax hikes and spending cuts because they cannot manage their budget effectively. This is the first of many such actions from the county in the years to come. Its not as if real estate is going to keep rising…

    • speonjosh

      Huh. I thought tax hikes and spending cuts were managing the budget. Would tax cuts and increased spending meet your defintion of managing the budget “effectively?”

      • Alex

        Spending cuts would be a welcome change if they were meaningful and sustained in areas such as frivolous projects (street car, aquatics center, dog park, etc). These reactionary spending cuts and tax hikes are a poorly contrived attempt to make the bloated budget look better on paper — without fixing the structural imbalances that require bond referendums to fund projects that perhaps should never break ground in the first place. If we don’t have the money, we should not be spending it.

        • Now Some Sense

          There’s really only two answers to this problem. Either the current county management though real estate assessments would continue to go up forever, or they do not adequately forecast the increase in expenditures from their expansion of government.

          Either way, they are incompetent.

          • Alex

            Agreed. To assume real estate prices will increase ad infinitum with the backdrop of a shrinking Federal government (which provides most of the jobs in this area) seems highly unrealistic. I’m concerned about how bad the budget shortfalls will become when their projections are completely divorced from reality if we have this kind of shortfall with a relatively stable real estate market that has an upward bias (for the moment).

          • Now Some Sense

            Well, it’s not the most stable of real estate environments, but what I find absurd is that this nascent spike in commercial vacancy is enough to throw the budget into a 5% deficit within the same budget planning cycle. If there was ever an example of how the county is getting overextended on spending, that right there is it.

            On top of that, the vacancy spike was not unexpected. Despite AED’s rosy “what, us worry” evaluations of BRAC and the leasing impacts, it has been clear for several years that there would be significant impacts to Arlington.

        • speonjosh

          I’m not sure there is a government jurisdiction in the country (nor many privately owned businesses) that would agree that “structural imbalances” lead to bond referendums to fund capital projects. It’s SOP. Sort of like how you buy your house. The asset is expected to last at least thirty years, so paying for it over thirty years is reasonable. Same with a park, road, etc. People can come here and rant all they want about the aquatic center, but will it get used? Most likely, yes. The rants will all be gone and forgotten in ten years, but the aquatic park will still be humming along, providing recreational and other benefits to thousands of users a year.

          • nom de guerre

            Just like the Artisphere?

          • BBMS

            The rants will not be gone if the aquatics center has the same type of revenue shortfall as Artisphere.

            The logic is the same: government claims people want an Artisphere; usage figures show otherwise and then it becomes a bigger drag on the budget then they had initially forecast. Will people use the aquatics center? Yes. Will the revenue be as much as the county is banking on? That is the important question.

  • I’ve been wondering

    So there should have been several windfalls over the past decade that I would have thought drove assessment rate down rather than up. How many new $300-$1.2M condos have been added to Ballston, Calendon, Rossyln and CC since 2000? Would seem to me that vast majority of residents would be low consumers of county services (no kids in school, no real increase in crime rates). Add into that all of the taxing from the spending that they are doing, and I’d expect the coffers to be running over. What gives? My services are great, but they haven’t improved since 2000.


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