How Arlington Could Balance Its Budget Without a Tax Hike

by ARLnow.com March 8, 2013 at 11:05 am 2,128 115 Comments

arlington-va-logoIn her proposed FY 2014 budget, which calls for a 3.2 cent tax hike and 9.2 million in spending cuts, County Manager Barbara Donnellan also identified — for discussion purposes — ways the county could cut enough spending to negate the need for tax hikes.

The county would need to cut an additional $13 million to balance the budget without the property tax increase. Among Donnellan’s theoretical options for cuts are: reducing library hours, closing Artisphere, delaying major capital projects, eliminating employee pay raises and cutting maintenance funds.

From the manager’s budget:

  • Changing operating hours of facilities and / or evaluate repurposing or closure of facilities
    • Reducing library hours to 2011 levels – $0.5 million
    • Closing the Artisphere would result in $0.9 million in ongoing savings in FY 2014 (assuming one-time closure costs are covered with other funds)
  • Delay opening of new facilities which could result in operating cost and possibly debt service savings
  • Evaluate employee compensation, including both pay and benefit levels
    • Eliminate merit step increase for FY 2014 – $3.4 million
    • Shift health care increase to employees and retirees – $1.8 million
  • Evaluate service levels in each operating department for possible reduction or elimination
    • A 1% across the board reduction in County departments would yield $4 – $4.5 million
    • Reduce maintenance capital — a 10% reduction would equal over $1 million
  • Redirection of dedicated revenue streams, e.g., reduce allocation to Crystal City Tax Increment Financing Area from 33 to 20% would yield $0.9 million; redirect dedicated bike-pedestrian fee to any General Fund use – $1.2 million

On top of the county’s $13 million in cuts, in a no-tax-hike scenario, Arlington Public Schools would need to find an additional $6.8 million to cut from its budget.

Even if tax rates remained the same, however, local homeowners would still pay higher taxes this year. The average single family home property tax bill would increase $52, thanks to an increase in property assessments. Under Donnellan’s budget, the average homeowner will pay an additional $262.

If the county were to decide to do away with all of Donnellan’s proposed cuts — including cuts to public safety, human services and other departments — Arlington would have to raise the real estate tax rate 5.7 cents to $1.028 per $100 in assessed value. That would result in a $351 increase in the average real estate tax bill.

Such a tax hike is not legally possible in FY 2014. Last month the Arlington County Board voted to advertise a $1.021 tax rate, meaning the Board cannot ultimately set the rate higher than that.

The Board will adopt its final budget on April 20. Public budget hearings are scheduled for March 26 and 28. The Board’s next budget work session is set for March 12, and will address the police, fire, sheriff and emergency management budgets.

  • novasteve

    NO!!! WE need a $75,000,000 swimming pool! we need it!!!!!!!!!!!!!! we also need a homeless shelter in a very expensive area!!!!! WE NEED IT!!!!

    • JohnR

      You forgot about the necessary dog park that costs over a million dollars.

    • Mike

      I’m for both, and willing to pay for it. Both make Arlington a better place to live.

      • novasteve

        So why don’t you voluntarily send in some money then?

        • @novasteve: Looking forward to meeting you at the Public budget hearings scheduled for March 26 and 28. How about the 28th meeting at 6 PM?

      • JoshInBallston

        How does a homeless shelter make ArlCo a better place to live? (Assuming you have a house since you’re “willing to pay” through higher property taxes)

        • Mike

          Because a society that provides comfort and protection to its mentally ill and disadvantaged is a better place to live.

          • novasteve

            Even if that act attracts more than otherwise would have been here?

          • JoshInBallston

            I respectfully disagree – especially because it then attracts more of them from other jurisdictions. A society that places them out of sight, out of mind is a better place to live. At least you don’t have to smell urine on the way to the metro.

          • novasteve

            Especially when it’s so close to the Metro (though I realize the current one is too, but the current one isn’t year round) so clearly this is designed to attract homeless people. But why woudl the board want to do that? VOTES. THey aren’t satisfied enough that they are permanently entrenched in power. I mean republican candidates are still getting 35% of the vote here.

          • drax

            Does it attract them, Josh?

            If so, why don’t the homeless we have now all go to DC because DC has shelters?

        • drax

          Would you prefer homeless people sleeping out in front of your house or building, Josh?


      • OverDC

        I agree with the comments below. How do expensive swimming pools, dog parks and homeless shelters make ArlCo a better place to live? I’m over folks walking around with signs every time I’m at a stop light or sign.

  • Pat M

    But I love my sphere of art!

    • novasteve

      Don’t worry, we can have spring sphere hunts soon.

    • Jimbo

      Then use it! It’s an indictment of the lack of imagination of Arlingtonians that the Artisphere has gone unused.

  • flux

    Sounds reasonable to me.

  • Ballston Resident

    Eliminate the sister cities programs which sends local politicians on boondoggles each year to multiple cities. Maybe someone else could provide more specifics on how much this is costing us in Arlington.

    • speonjosh

      Wait, so you don’t actually know? But you are ready to single it out anyway?

      • Complainers just complain

        Reflexive complaining about government expenditures doesn’t require facts or critical analysis. It’s just a form of stress relief for certain olds, the economically pressured, and the misanthropes.

        • speonjosh

          Cars complain about the government?

      • John Fontain

        speonjosh, how does the cost matter? if it’s a useless and wasteful expenditure it should be cut, no matter how small the amount is.

        • speonjosh

          Is it? Useless and wasteful?

          • not joshin

            A question? You responded with another question?? Do you have any answers or is your question mark key stuck?

    • OverDC

      I agree with you. Total cost shouldn’t matter. We need to take care of those in Arlington first. Any travel outside the area (unless to local communities should be eliminate, just like the federal government is doing).

    • random comment

      Eliminate (insert program) that is a huge waste!

      Maybe someone else could go do my homework for me and tell me if it really is a huge waste, but in the meantime, I’m going to assume!

      • Jenni

        Get real tax apologists. One dollar spent on the Sister Cities program is too much. It is non-essential, non-core, indefensible and unjustifiable.

        • drax

          Lots of things are non-essential. Why should this one be cut before other things? We don’t have to cut every non-essential program, so why this one? Justify THAT.

          And do you know how much tax money goes to the Sister City program?

          • Jenni

            This one seems pretty low on the totem pole of critical services the government should be funding. But if you want to suggest some other non-essential programs to cut, then why don’t you just go right ahead?

            Across-the-board cuts or targeted cuts. You can only choose one.

          • speonjosh

            The reason it seems pretty low on the totem pole is because Ballston Resident brought it up. If he/she had not, then no one would even be talking about it.
            Besides, I’m guessing any spending on the sister cities program is quite low. Singling it out is like politicians at the national level agreeing to the sequester as a way to cut the deficit. Cutting air traffic controllers, White House tours and the rest ain’t gonna put a noticeable dent in the long term debt. However, it will cause certain people real short term pain.

  • meh…

    Why is the general public always so quick to hit government employees with the short end of the stick?? What justification is there to Eliminate Merit Step Increases or shift health care increases to the employees? WE work just as hard as anyone else and should NOT be responsible for bearing the weight of something that an entire populace benefits from.

    • SomeGuy

      Are you under the impression that the private sector hasn’t begun to shift health insurance cost burdens to the employee?

      • meh…

        Where is it written that the public sector must mimic the private sector?

        • SomeGuy

          It’s not. But then again, where is it written that public employees can’t sacrifice some benefits? Where is written that you’re entitled to have your health insurance paid by the taxpayer? Where is written that your employment is not “at will,” and thus that you can’t leave your job if you don’t like your salary and benefits? Cutting your benefits is an option is all I’m saying, and it’s an option that many private sector employers are taking, so it’s not unreasonable that public sector employers would consider the same since the competitive landscape for such benefits is changing.

          • meh…

            Sacrifice??? You do realize that pursuing and accepting employment in the public sector is actually agreeing to building a career where you’re guaranteed to make a large percentage less than your counterparts in the private sector right? The word entitled is being thrown around way too much these days. Don’t forget that government employees are also tax payers, so by default, i’m actually paying for my own health insurance just as much as you are.

            Employment is definitely “at will”, but to suggest that a professional that has already accepted a life long sacrifice by going into a career in the public sector just bend over and take one for the team is the highest insult being levied and pushed by the populace these days.

          • SomeGuy

            No. I don’t realize that. Neither does this chart: http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/21/private-vs-public-sector-pay/ You have a choice on where to work, and something’s keeping you there for personal reasons. Don’t delude yourself into thinking you’re doing “charity” for us and that the public somehow owes you something for your sacrifice.

          • meh…

            It’s not a delusion at all. Nor have I presented it as a charitable contribution to society. That’s the baggage you’re attaching to it. It’s a career choice, simple as that.

            Turn the table back to you, why should I take a pay cut, or reduction in benefits to save YOU from paying more taxes?? Especially considering that i’ll be sharing that higher tax burden right along with you.

          • meh…

            Also, your link is from 2009.

          • not_you

            … and don’t think the public should expect free slave labor either. government workers deserve to make a living and be paid just like anyone else… unless you’re willing to except checks written on ‘patriotism’.

          • on the dole

            I work for the federal government, not Arl Co, but I imagine my sentiments might be shared by some county workers.

            My job is actually to help ensure that the federal government pays fair and accurate prices for a certain type of necessary service. I work hard at my job and I feel good about the work I do. I also am the type of person who puts a high value on job security and so I am happy to earn somewhat less in the public sector but know that I have more job security than some of my former high-flying grad school friends who were making big bucks a few years back but now are un- and underemployed.

            I do think that I am performing a valuable public service, and that is important to me. I want to feel good about the work that I do, and that is the main reason why I continue to do this rather than, say, join a lobbying firm and turn all my inside information into a way to line my own pockets and the pockets of private industry. I would not feel good about that. So I continue at my public sector job, which is far less lucrative. Do I think I am “doing charity” for the taxpayers? No, not really. OTOH, it would be nice to feel like people respected what I do and were glad that I am doing it. Instead, it often feels like I would earn greater public respect if I stopped taking taxpayer money in the form of salary and instead took a private sector job and a whole hell of a lot more taxpayer money in the form of shady backroom dealings and legislative pork. You want to know who’s wasting taxpayer money? Look to the private sector, my friend.

          • drax

            Good point, Someguy – private workers need to stand up for themselves and their compensation more, like public workers are doing.

    • Ashton Heights Represent

      The thing is, I only benefit from a small part of the budget. The only things I truly need from my county are infrastructure and emergency services.

      Libraries are obsolete 19th century relics, Human services does not benefit me in any way. Affordable Housing actually hits me thrice: 1. I pay for it being build, 2 I am supposed to pay for keeping those rates artificially low, and 3. the lost county income on those suppressed rents is compensated through my market value house.

      Schools are expensive too, but you know? I’m okay with that, good schools at least help my property value.

      On top of this, we have about 1 county staffer for 60 residents, which shows just how bloated the county is. So yes, lets start with some cost cutting.

      • speonjosh

        You are misunderstanding how affordable housing works.
        And how property taxes are set.
        And what, pray tell, is the proper ratio of government staffers to local residents? How do you know?

        • Jeff

          Grandpa can’t see past his lawn.

          • speonjosh

            Was that an attempt at humor, son?

        • DCBuff

          Josh, then tell him (and us) how affordable housing works. In ArlCo, it is heavily subsidized by the county, which funnels tax dollars to “non-profit” landlords that have taken properties off the market that might otherwise have been redeveloped to higher priced housing which would in turn add to the tax coffers. Or, there is the example of “affordable units” in otherwise “market-rate” housing that developers build to get added density. But, how does that help? If there is added density, make it all market-rate and add to the tax coffers.

      • drax

        “Libraries are obsolete 19th century relics,”


        • Ashton Heights Represent

          If you want them to be slightly useful, just turn them into homeless shelters. That way you don’t have to buy a new building.

          • novasteve

            Public libraries are where the homeless view porn.

      • cj

        You don’t represent all of us in Ashton Heights. Many of us aren’t so sarcastic, cynical and self-absorbed.

    • snarl

      many police and firemen are already priced out of living in the county and are dealing with the commute. please dont further erode morale by reducing their salaries (by increased health costs) or reducing or eliminating any increases in pay. i believe in recent years they are also contributing more of a proportion of their pay to health insurance.

      • JoshInBallston

        Why does it matter whether police and fire live in the county? Most of us commute and it doesn’t affect how hard we work.

        • meh…

          It’s a matter of recruitment and sustaining acceptable levels of staffing for these critical services. Public Servant positions are typically paid much lower than other professions. There is no incentive for a lower paid professional to commute and serve in a district where they can’t even afford to live. They’re more likely to seek employment for these positions closer to their homes. When that happens, the protective force is depleted, crime is harder to control, safety and response times decrease, and eventually Arlington is no longer an attractive place to live.

          • JoshInBallston

            Did you know that the average wait time to get into the Arlington PD academy is 20 months and fire academy is 27 months? (Figures provided by county manager’s office last September)
            Since there’s no shortage of applicants, would you then agree that them being able to afford living in the county is not an issue?

          • meh…

            I wouldn’t agree to that at all. The county has always offered a competitive salary and that is indeed what has allowed us to enjoy the figures you’ve stated. If that is tampered with, then yes, it will indeed become an issue.

          • bemused bystander

            Are those pre-qualified applicants, or all including wishful ones?

          • RhetoricalJsh

            What do you mean by “other professions”. What data do you have that public servants are paid less than comparably skilled workers in other professions? What is the appropriate compensation for a public servant?

          • meh…
          • Fairlington Chris

            I am a Federal employee and I don’t agree Federal employees are underpaid, which probably puts me in the minority in the government, and certainly on this site. My pay has remain unchanged in the last three years, but I get by, as do my colleagues. We don’t complain, we budget accordingly. It’s only the union rank and file whiners for whom nothing is ever good enough who complain (no, I’m not an SESers or management) We work long hours, but know the worm has turned since the 90’s when all our friends were making big bucks in the IT world but are now struggling or unemployed. And really, one shouldn’t cite Mother Jones or the WashPost as credible sources or Joe Davidson, a union shill, in particular. Or then maybe it’s okay for me to cite the Heritage Foundation or the Cato Institute. The bottom line is most every working person has suffered in the Obama economy. To expect a raise when the County is in debt is absurd. Whatever happened to Joe Biden’s “economic patriotism?”

          • meh…

            Just to be clear, my stance regarding public sector pay does NOT equal me advocating across the board pay raises either. I AM however firmly against any suggestion that our wages or benefits be cut in any shape form or fashion.

            I also said nothing about being under paid. I don’t consider myself as underpaid. I do realize I’d likely have a much higher salary and earning potential in the private sector though. Believe it or not, I actually left the private sector for public sector work just a few years ago.

          • Autoexec.bat

            For every public sector worker who makes less than they would privately, I bet I could find 10 who are nearly unemployable at their current salary. Most WMATA employees would pass a basic background check for alot of places but are living high on the hog relatively to their education, criminal background, disposition and work ethic. Tell me I am wrong.

          • not_you

            heck… any one (gov or public) would agree that WMATA is a lost cause when it comes to employees. poor example.

          • autoexec.bat

            So my example is invalid because it proves my point too well? That’s an interesting tactic.

          • not_you

            The county workers have not seen a COLA since 2008… the budget docs have nice little chart that shows this… meanwhile other expenses have increased just like everyone else under the Bush recession… as soon as the greedy corporations start showing some ‘patriotism’ may be everyone one else will too. In the meantime I don’t recall patriotism paying any bills.

          • Wayne Kubicki

            But there were step increases for all years except one, were there not?

          • Louise

            No, Wayne, there were not. I believe there has been one, half-step increase, in the past three years.

          • RunningWriting

            The banks haven’t done too badly post-recession. The senior management certainly isn’t taking a pay cut. Not that this applies to Arlington so much, but you made some general statements about the U.S. economy.

          • Greg

            I love when people type snarky responses like “LOL” but don’t read the links they post that are undercutting their position.

          • Autoexec.bat

            The same is said about DC Fire and EMS but then we learn how much they’re all making off of overtime. Or how about the Montgomery County employees that we found out this week take, on average, one sick day per week? The Union will cry about how salaries can’t be cut because staffing levels will be affected. Then when people point out how the overtime system is being gamed, then suddenly clam up. I stopped believing this BS years ago. The staffing levels are fine, but people are playing a huge game of hide-the-ball to keep the gravy train rolling.

          • meh…

            That’s the mistake people make by simply believing whatever the media presents to them in order to sensationalize and get views.

            What’s not being reported is that just like in the Private Sector, you have Full Time Salaried Employees as well as Hourly Employees that indeed are eligible for overtime compensation. Full Time Salaried employees are not eligible for overtime compensation.

            I don’t disagree that overtime abuse is a major issue in the public sector. BUT I take serious issue with the one sided story presented by mass media.

            Regarding sick leave; although it likely varies by jurisdiction, Leave hours are accumulated throughout the year based on your length of service. If you have available sick leave or whatever type of leave, I don’t see what the issue is for someone to take the hours they’ve accrued and use them when necessary. The problem with reporting an AVERAGE is that it gives the appearance that employees are actually taking off 1-day/week. That’s far from reality. If you’re sick and out of work for an entire week…then that’s thrown into the average. If you’re on extended leave for pregnancy or major surgery, that’s thrown into the average. If you’re out on leave due to an on the job injury, that’s thrown into the average. Don’t always take what’s presented to you at face value. The facts are often much more insightful.

          • Autoexec.bat

            You’re right, full time salaries employees aren’t eligible but police and fire fighters are. Specifically, because they also tend to be unionized, you have a scenario where the police or firefighters come up with a way to game the system and then circle the wagons when it comes to light. In DC’s case, a firefighters asks for a day off. If it’s not granted, he calls in sick that morning and takes the day anyway. His calling in sick means another employee gets to work overtime to cover for him. Sick pay is for people who are sick. It’s not to be used in the same way that a paid holiday is.

            As for the average employees, yes, that’s the average. For every person not abusing sick leave and disability, there are people who are. Again, the differrence in Mont Co. is that because many of these employees are unionized, they do so with impunity.

            And don’t get me started on the games that get played when municipal employees are within three years of retirement and need to really hit it out of the park so their pensions are as large as possible. You and I both know that this doesn’t occur NEARLY on this scale in the private sector and it’s enabled by unions, Democratic machine politics and cronyism.

          • speonjosh

            “For every person not abusing sick leave and disability, there are people who are.” Where do you come up with this?
            You seem to be painting government employees as some sort of massive mafia where they are all living high on the hog. I’ll concede that, on average, government employees are probably doing as well or better than average private sector employees nationwide. But they sure ain’t in the top 1%, who are living high on the hog often at government expense / subsidy / etc and game the system far more than any union garbage collector could ever hope to.

          • autoexec.bat

            Do you think the statement of mine that you quoted is true or untrue?

          • DCBuff

            Josh, I’m with you on this. If there are people in Monty “abusing” leave, then Monty Co. needs to find ways to address these issues. Where is the evidence that this exists in ArlCo? Reality is that public servants simply don’t rake it in even if they are paid decently, are dedicated to their jobs, but every day work with individuals from the private sector who feed out of the same public coffers trough yet make far more.

          • Autoexec.bat

            Can we stop with this old canard that all public employees are tirelessly and unfailing dedicated to public service? Some people ended up working for the county or the state simply because it’s a pretty comfortable and predictable existence. Of course this doesn’t apply to everyone, but I think it’s more common than this picture that keeps getting painted of the idealistic, well-educated county employee. Gimme a break.

          • DCBuff

            No one (but you) said “all” and it is hardly an old canard. I have no doubt you are correct that many public servants like their jobs because it is comfortable. Is there something wrong with that? And, I certainly said nothing about idealism, which is far different than being dedicated. If anything, the tired canard (and I think this extends to federal workers) is how public servants are lazy, take advantage of a system and are a drag on the taxpayer.

          • not_you

            FYI… the general employee’s in ArlCo had their retirement changed a couple of years ago so that overtime is no longer counted for retirement if I recall.

          • autoexec.bat

            Not what I am reading on the Arl. Co. website. Below is an excerpt from the DROP plan documentation. Tell me this plan isn’t gold-plated. It sounds like all you need to do is once you think you’ve pretty much topped out on salary before retirement, you grab some overtime and spike your salary over three separate 6-month periods, thereby raising the average. It’s not uncommon for non-exempt employees to be able to raise their salaries by 50% through “timely” use of overtime. This is done with a wink and a nod.

            “Retirement Benefit Options – Decided at the Time of DROP Entry

             Basic Benefit: The basic benefit is determined by your years of service, your age at retirement and your average final salary (average of your 3 highest 26 consecutive pay periods). It is a lifetime benefit and will continue until your death. If you die before all of your members contributions have been paid to you, the remaining funds are paid in a lump-sum to your designated beneficiary.”

          • autoexec.bat
          • Married to a fireman

            What you say about their spiking their last 3 years pay is correct, but keep in mind that cops and firemen aren’t paid that much to do a very dangerous job, so it is spiking a low base pay. Same with the overtime, it is overtime on a low base pay.

          • Not a Dem

            Fact…. Retirement and DROP are only paid on base pay…… Overtime and any pay for extra training do not count….. Your public safety employees are dedicated to your safety and enjoy serving you…. Why do you not want them to make less than fair market value for their work? Why do the same citizens who after 9/11 couldn’t say enough about the dedication and sacrifices of firefighters and police officers now complain about them trying to make a living like anyone else? Crazy……

    • Id

      Because for the past 5 years, while people in the private sector have been getting laid off or taking pay cuts to keep their jobs, the County government is proposing a public employee raises and higher taxes to pay for it. I am willing to bet I do not consume “benefits” in the amount of what I pay in taxes.

      • drax

        So because you’re suffering, others should suffer too? Does that make sense? Does that sound like a way to build wages and benefits back up for everyone?

      • not_you

        … ever figure out how much it costs to pave a road? or clear the snow… I could go on but you’ve already gotten more than ‘your’ taxes cover.

    • civil servant

      In Arlington, it is often the employee who bears the brunt of cuts – whether they have to make up for position cuts, have to forego the “merit step increase” (which is paltry) or increasing contributions to health benefits. Over time the County has not given COLAs to employees, which has led to degrading the employee’s salary. The merit pay increase is only about 1.5% which certainly doesn’t address inflation in most years. Lastly, when you cut the merit increase, NEVER adjust for COL and then INCREASE payments for health benefits, County employees have been experiencing basically a cut in pay over the years. Many County employees are simply not competitive either with local jurisdictions (e.g. Alexandria, Fairfax) and certainly not with the Feds…who have better benefits and COLAs with regularity. So give the County employees a break for goodness sake.

  • Andy

    People always forget that property taxes largely have to change each year because house prices don’t just follow inflation. So if house prices are stagnant rates have to go up to compensate. Now, you could argue they didn’t decrease enough during boom times, but they have to go up now.
    Just look at school enrollment – it’s through the roof!

    • Peter

      It’s not zero sum as you describe. You can add more taxable units (by allowing construction of high rise condos, for example) to offset losses due to real estate devaluation. Or, you can adjust commercial tax rates or, in the best of all possible worlds, see commercial growth revenues offsetting residential revenue declines.

      • speonjosh

        The county cannot “add more taxable units.” They can encourage them. But they aren’t in the business of building houses, condos, or apartments.

        • SomeGuy

          Would you say they’re more in the business of financing sprayground dog parks, aquatics facilities, and money sink art centers?

        • Peter

          You are parsing wrong. The county adds taxable units to its tax base when residential properties are built. It does not create them, for course (although it can use tax and zoning policy to encourage it). But parse away, message board guy.

          By adding taxable units to its tax base, Arlco has new tax revenues that offset a portion, or all, of any assessment declines.

      • not_you

        The County can’t adjust the commercial tax rate… Richmond saw to that… rates for residential and commercial have to be the same.

    • SomeGuy

      Politicians “always forget” that their budgets “don’t just follow inflation.” So if their budgets remain stagnant at current tax rates, cuts can be made to compensate.

    • bobbytiger


  • SomeGuy

    I would feel some impact from these proposed cuts, but I also understand the difference between wants and needs, so I think they’re sound adjustments. Get to it!

  • willy

    Lots of good ideas. But if you don’t do anything else, cut the Artisphere.

    • kalashnikev

      Pull the plug!

  • TC

    Cut any money spent on the “car free diet” marketing program.

  • Red1

    All these recommendations to avoid higher taxes are reasonable. Not everyone in Arlington is making a six figure salary. Furthermore, some folks are feeling the sting of higher federal taxes and gas prices. Also, the employment picture is rough, for example my neighbor, whose hours are being cut at her association job to deal with higher costs encountered by her employer.

    So, please County Board– No new taxes!! please….

  • OverDC

    Federal Government employees have had their pay frozen for going on 3 years, so why shouldn’t Arlington Government employees have their salaries frozen as well? All goverment (taxpayer paid) employees. I agree that libraries have become obsolete so reducing their hours is a great idea. I think they should condense the number we have. Close the one on Walter Reed, there is a nice one in Shirlington. I don’t think too many folks are upset about the Artisphere. We don’t need another Community Center or Acquatics Center so I say we cancel those builds all together and save the funding now and in the future. Kicking the can down the road is just going to make the price increase because costs for supplies and labor are only going up, not down (esp if the WH gets their way and they increase minimum wage AGAIN). I’m all for eliminating the sister cities program. They also need to decrease their management reserve. How about adding revert County Board salaries back to 200X levels? These are just drop in the buckets, there are other reductions Arlington could do that would save money now and far into the future that would not mean cutting education or police/fire (though I don’t think they should have to make salaries that allow them to live in Arlington. Cops can get free or significantly reduced rents in mulitple apartment complexes n the area).

    • nom de guerre

      The construction of the Arlington Mill Community Center is almost complete.

    • not_you

      FYI… according to the budget docs the employees have not had a COLA since 2008. So they have been frozen for five years while they have been picking up other increases.

    • speonjosh

      Try to keep up. When the Walter Reed library had its hours cut a few years back, there was mass outcry. Believe what you want about whether libraries are “obsolete,” but if you spent any time in any of them, you’d see they all get quite a lot of use. Also, what makes you say “we don’t need” another community center or aquatics center? How do you know?

  • ARL

    So will we also have an article about how Arlington could balance its budget without spending cuts?

  • kalashnikev

    1) One large formation of county employees… at close interval.

    2) Every one counts off by three.
    3) Heads the even numbers go home, tails the odd numbers go home.

    4) In the event of a tails, a 15 minute follow on meeting to discuss rebalanced workload and succession of command will take place.
    5) Everyone goes back to work.

  • Fairlington Chris

    As a Federal employee, I realize how good I have it in the Obama economy and I don’t resent no pay raise for the last three years. I think it is totally unreasonable for any government employee to expect an increase in pay when budgets are under water. I know some of my colleagues remember the days in the 90’s when our friends were making the big bucks in the IT world, only now to be struggling or unemployed. The worm has turned for some.

    The Feds who whine are largely rank and file union types (and no, I’m not SES or management). I budget accordingly. Besides, whatever happened to Joe Biden’s plea for “economic patriotisim”?

    To Meh > the justification to freeze pay is there is no money to justify raises. And citing Mother Jones and the WashPost (with union shill Joe Davidson) is not a credible argument for higher Fed wages. If so, I can cite the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute.



    And stating there should be no difference in the kind of leave used and for whatever purpose, you clearly don’t understand Fed rules on pay and leave.

    You sound like an AC or Montgomery Cty employee. I hope you don’t work for the Federal government. You’re giving us an increasingly lousy reputation.

    • dm

      I’m whining, Chris. Not because I’m paid too much or too little, but because the media & politicians have made people think that federal employees’ pay is the problem.

      Look at page 97, I think – maybe 92, of the IRS 1040 instruction booklet and see a less-than 2% of government outlay is going toward federal salaries. The real cutting needs to be in the other 98% that everyone appears to not see.

      My workload has increased, my responsibilities have increased, … I was ok with a freeze for the first year, and even the second, … but not anymore. It’s time for the other 98% of the budget to get cut.

    • novasteve


  • Mc

    The entire budget gap can be eliminated by reducing some of the County’s spending on so-called affordable housing subsidies for in just a single year. But such real alternatives aren’t offered, and instead hysteria is created around the artisphere, which has negligible budget impact. People need to read the actual budget.

    • Shout Out

      Thou speaketh the truth.

  • Joseph Seal

    Ill bet alot of money could be saved by not renovating perfectly good bus stops and not talking about the street car project ever again

  • Guest

    Reduce the subsidized housing annual budget from $45 million to $20 million for a savings of $25 million and no need for a tax hike or holding back raises for hardworking people.

  • Arlington Native

    1. I have lived in the county since 1963 and have owned a home here since 1992.

    2. I have worked for the county since 1987. So, no matter what you do (raise taxes to pay for a pay increase, or increase my health insurance costs to eliminate a tax increase), I kind of get screwed.

    3. Please stop calling the step increase a “merit step.” There is no merit pay, per se, in a Arlington Public Schools. When you are hired, you are told that you get a yearly increase in salary, called a step increase. Everyone gets this, not just staff who are rated highly. You are also told you could get a COLA increase to your salary if and when the county can afford it. Unfortunately, teacher salaries have been nearly frozen for the past five years — meaning not only that current staff, such as myself, had a promise broken in terms of our expected earnings, but that many of us on the upper echelons have seen a *decrease* in salary in the last two to three years due to higher deductions for health insurance, taxes, etc. This has been disheartening, given that I had planned retirement based on increased revenue with each passing year. Needless to say, the 2% COLA they gave us last year did not even begin to keep pace with increasing household bills. It leaves me in a difficult situation — I want to retire after 30 years, but cannot. So, instead of having a youthful, energetic group of teachers coming in each year, you have people like me, who, perhaps, hang on longer than we should, because we don’t have enough to retire on. After 30 years of “serving” Arlington County. This is one of the richest counties in the United States. Can’t we do better?

  • Matt Lenco

    People forget one very important thing, Obamacare. 2014 Obamacare taxes will cost an additional $3,000 per Arlington County Employee. Arlington County has 10,504 employees which means the 2014 budget needs to make room for $31,512,000. Everybody wants to go to the party but nobody wants to clean up. You voted for him, you fix it.

  • Guest

    People forget one very important thing, Obamacare. In 2014, the Obamacare tax will equate to $3,000 per Arlington County employee. There are 10,504 Arlington County employees which means the Arlington County budget must plan for an additional $31,512,000.

  • Fyodor Dostoyevsky

    People forget one very important thing, Obamacare. In 2014, the Obamacare tax will equate to $3,000 per Arlington County employee. There are 10,504 Arlington County employees which means the Arlington County budget must plan for an additional $31,512,000.


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