(Updated at 4:40 p.m.) Two days after the Arlington County Board voted to offset a one-cent tax rate cut by eliminating a pay raise for county employees, the Board has changed course.
County Board Chair Jay Fisette told ARLnow.com Friday afternoon that, after the Board met with representatives from the police and firefighter unions this morning, it decided to cut from other areas to make up the $6.6 million gap in the budget the tax cut will create.
The Arlington County Police Union, the Arlington Police Beneficiary Association and the Arlington Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association (Local 2800) each released statements denouncing the Board’s decision to go against County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s recommendation to keep the property tax rate at 2014’s level of $1.006 per $100 in assessed value — and to pay for it by eliminating pay raises in favor of a “modest” 1 percent Cost of Living Adjustment and a one-time $500 employee bonus.
The decision was made in the days leading up to Wednesday’s budget mark-up, leading the police and firefighters to question the process and transparency of the Board’s budget process.
“Throughout the budgetary process that started in September 2013, there were no discussions by the County Board that indicated that step increases would be eliminated,” Local 2800 said in a statement. “Only now, six days before the vote, have we been informed… We understand that there needs to be a balance and restraint in the current economic times but there also needs to be transparency.”
The APBA said the cut in step increases would have hit twice as hard because the county changed employees’ healthcare plans this year, resulting in increases in premiums as high as 7 percent for some employees.
“Not only is this budget cut targeting employees in one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S., it also was made at the 11th hour, outside of Arlington’s well-accepted and long-established budget process and after the last opportunity for public comment,” the APBA said in a statement.
“It is the opinion of the APBA and Union that this last minute decision is politically motivated as a newly elected County Board Member was just sworn into office,” APBA member Jim Tuomey said in a separate email. “We feel this is a last minute effort for the County Board to try and ‘win over’ the voters by saving a penny on the real estate tax rate at the expense of all County employees and we have no opportunity to be heard at future work sessions with the budget adoption next Tuesday night.”
Fisette said the Board unanimously decided to cut the tax rate “a few weeks ago,” before the April 8 special election that saw John Vihstadt became the first non-Democrat elected to the Board since 1999 by a 57-41 percent margin over Democrat Alan Howze.
The decision to do away with the step increase came as a shock to the employees because it hadn’t been mentioned in any public hearings or meetings. Moreover, Fisette said, it’s rare that the Board goes away from the county manager’s recommendations on compensation. It’s particularly rare that the Board lowers salaries or cuts pay raises, Fisette said.
“In the past, it was traditionally that the manager’s compensation [recommendation] rarely did change, so they had no reason to worry,” Fisette said. “But we had just been exploring that in the last days and week before we made the final decision.”
The cuts to make up that $6.6 million will now come primarily from a “hiring slowdown,” Fisette said. The county will hold off on filling some of its 200-300 vacant positions. Arlington will also institute “a targeted reduction of a handful of new positions,” and some of the other details of the cuts still must be finalized before the Board’s vote on Tuesday.
“We’re all feeling okay now that we’ve found an alternative that accomplishes what we wanted to accomplish,” Fisette said. “We heard a lot of feedback this year, and the last couple of years,about the increasing tax burden on homeowners, and we felt an obligation to address that since the assessments were higher than we projected.”
An Amazon van was towed from an apartment complex on Tuesday. This was the second time we’ve noted one of the company’s delivery vehicles getting towed. It raises a question:…
Arlington Real Estate in WSJ — “Buying a single-family home in Arlington, Va., is a study in patience… With persistence and perseverance, these families were able to buy a house…
The pandemic, now nearly 2.5 years old, has bent time in weird ways. For many, a prolonged period of mostly staying at home — particularly in 2020 — made time…
A man allegedly got mad and drew a gun when an employee at a local car wash asked him to move his vehicle. The incident happened around 10:15 a.m. Tuesday…
Do you struggle with anxiety, depression, stress, grief, trauma or anger? Are
you ready to make a change?
Lauren K. Nickum, LCSW, CSAC from Peaceful Mind Solutions is now taking new
clients for psychotherapy. Lauren has over 10 years of experience treating
mental health disorders and general life stress in adults and adolescents. For
more information visit
As the summer winds down, it’s a great time to look forward to a creative fall! Art House 7 has a terrific selection of classes, for preschoolers to adults. Our fall session, starting September 6, offers painting, drawing, sculpture, collage, ceramics (including the wheel) and sewing. We have specialty classes such as Suminagashi, the ancient art of Japanese water marbling.
If you’re looking for a shorter commitment, we also have a full schedule of workshops, Art Nights, and Morning Art Socials. If you haven’t discovered Art House 7, please check us out! We offer classes throughout the year, taught by a range of fantastic teachers. You can buy art supplies next door. We’re near the Lee Harrison shopping center, and free parking is outside our door.
Art House 7
5537 Langston Blvd.Arlington VA 22207
Have you ever considered purchasing a rental property but weren’t sure where to start? This free webinar will go over the basics of how to invest in real estate, how to choose rental properties, and a market overview. Our Director