Press Club

The Right Note: Outrage or Resignation?

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column by published on Thursdays. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyIt’s a big week in Virginia.

The federal government will see the sequester implemented on Friday, reminding us that despite substantial tax hikes to start this year, we are still far short of balancing our budget.

Our elected officials in Richmond, who for years on a bi-partisan basis raided revenues collected for transportation, have given us a big tax increase to pay for new transportation priorities.

We found out that the Arlington County Manager’s budget will include cuts to public safety — clearly one of the non-negotiable responsibilities of a local government.

We learned that some members of our County Board wanted to nearly double the County Manager’s recommended 3.2 cent real estate tax increase. A 6 cent rate increase would have been advertised if Chris Zimmerman had not been sick with the flu.

In short, as taxpayers, there is a lot to be outraged about these days. But are Arlingtonians outraged?

Here in Arlington, we have seen our tax bills more than double over the past decade or so. Yet, we are informed we cannot afford to pay the same number of public safety officials we paid last year.

We have the money for a swimming pool, but not firemen. We have the money for the artisphere, but not police officers. We have the money to fund about 3,700 county employees — one for every 60 or so Arlingtonians — but we are putting our safety at risk.

The County Manager, who does not live in Arlington, put this budget together and got a $10,000 raise in return. But are we outraged?

A friend of mine emailed me this week and informed me that Arlingtonians were simply willing to continually pay more in taxes for additional services. Based on my experiences attending the annual budget and tax rate hearing, history indicates that my friend is right. Everyone who wants higher taxes and more spending shows up and asks for it. Our Board is only too happy to oblige and identify new ways to spend our money.

But why are Arlingtonians resigned to pay for more but actually get less? In addition to public safety cuts, we continue to pay more in taxes, but don’t meet our ongoing maintenance needs. I am looking forward to the March 27th hearing when we can ask why the Board is willing to finance a trolley but not maintain our emergency services.

Arlingtonians deserve to know why we have to spend more of our tax dollars on vanity projects when we cannot provide the basics.

I hope Arlingtonians will ask the County Board these questions during the budget process this spring and show some outrage rather than another round of resignation.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

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