The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
With the passage of the budget, the average property tax burden will rise in Arlington by 4 percent. Last year, it increased by 4.6 percent, even with the rate cut.
John Vihstadt summed up his first year on the County Board with this statement, “the problem is not that we are taxing too little but that we are spending too much.” After a year on the Board and looking at how Arlington budgets, Vihstadt understands that more could be done to spend our tax dollars more wisely.
With big ticket projects now shelved or eliminated altogether, other areas of the budget should be subjected to greater scrutiny. It may not be as newsworthy to find $100,000 examples of wasteful spending as a $1 million bus stop, but they are equally as important. It is one of the reasons Vihstadt pushed so hard for the independent audit function in Arlington.
Vihstadt also called for re-evaluating how we build our budgets. Fiscal watchdogs agree. It is no secret that I believe Arlington should revamp the revenue estimating process and start returning closeout funds to taxpayers rather than always using them to increase spending.
But, Mr. Vihstadt cannot do it alone. It is clear from statements from other Board Members, there is no rush to lower tax rates again any time soon. With two seats open on the Board this fall, it is time for another fiscally responsible Republican or Independent to join Vihstadt, perhaps even two.
It is not just the two Board seats that are open. Each of Arlington’s Constitutional Offices are up for re-election as well, including the Clerk of the Circuit Court, which is elected once every eight years.
Electoral competition is healthy and brings greater accountability. But, voters will not be able to truly examine the job each of these elected officials are doing unless a challenger emerges to contest each office.
For years, qualified, community-minded Republicans and Independents did not step up to the plate and run in Arlington. The conventional wisdom was that the Democrats’ nominee would secure the general election victory. Last year’s results made it clear that voters are open to a clean slate and will give them a fair look.
Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.