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The Right Note: The County Board’s Next Meeting Will Cost You

by Mark Kelly May 14, 2015 at 1:15 pm 0

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.

Mark KellyThis Saturday’s Arlington County Board Agenda will take more money from your pockets, raise your debt unnecessarily, and spend irresponsibly.

Parking is About to Get More Expensive

If the County Manager’s proposal on parking meters is adopted, Arlington hopes to add over $1.6 million annually to its coffers. The rates have not been changed since 2011, so it is not unreasonable to give them another look.

The more troubling part of the proposal is the effort to extend the hours from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. The extended hours certainly do not create a welcoming environment for evening patrons to our retail and dining establishments.

Yes, people will ultimately feed the meters after 6:00 p.m., but is the extra $675,000 per year really necessary in a county already flush with cash?

Bonds to be Issued

There is a strong argument to be made that many of the items the County Board issues bonds for should be funded out of the regular budget. Parks and facilities maintenance, HVAC and roof repairs for our schools, and non-construction improvements to the Water Pollution Control plant should not be funded in the same way as infrastructure like school construction or replacing aging sewer lines.

Maintenance should be treated as regular and ongoing operating costs that the county and School Boards should budget for each year rather than borrowing money to pay for it. If you build a school or put a park in service, you should expect to have to pay to maintain it rather than adding to our already hefty debt service burden.

The county noted the bonds will not be issued until we get our annual bond ratings check-up that reaffirms our highest possible debt rating. Yes, that is in order to get us the lowest possible interest rates — a good thing when borrowing money.

But, the county often touts this rating like it is a measure of fiscal discipline. It’s not. It is a measure of the County’s ability to raise taxes on us to pay off the debt.

New ART Bus Facility

According to the County’s press release, building our own bus facility will save Arlington $57,000 per year. It will cost $14.2 million to build it.

In other words, in about 250 years this bus facility will have paid for itself. That’s one very generous definition of “long range planning.”

No one should argue with a straight face that this is some sort of cost saving measure. Sure, the funds to pay for the facility are not all at the expense of local taxpayers as Virginia is kicking in state funding. However, Arlington taxpayers are paying for that, too.

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

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