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County May Face Budget Gap Next Year Despite Expected Tax Revenue Rise

by Jennifer Currier November 17, 2015 at 4:30 pm 0

Money (file photo)(Updated at 5:05 p.m.) Arlington officials are anticipating “moderate” revenue growth in 2017 due to increases in residential real estate assessments, as predicted earlier this fall.

The County Board will review these increases — as outlined in the County Manager’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget guidance — at its meeting this Thursday, kicking off the county’s annual budgetary process.

Increases in the real estate assessments for single-family homes, townhouses and condos will provide the county with most of its revenue growth. On average, such assessments are expected to rise 3 percent, causing tax bills for Arlington residents to increase by approximately $175 at current tax rates.

Assessments for commercial real estate, however, are expected to remain flat or turn slightly negative “due to vacancy rates in office buildings and the slowing demand in multi-family residential.” Commercial property taxes are half of Arlington County’s tax base, and by staying flat or going negative it will “shift the tax burden to the average homeowner.”

Overall, tax revenue is expected to increase between 1.9 and 2.4 percent in FY 2017. Aside from real estate taxes, the projected growth in other county tax revenue includes:

  • Personal property/vehicle tax: +0.1 percent
  • Sales tax: +1.9 percent
  • Meals tax: +6.2 percent
  • Transient occupancy/hotel tax: +7.9 percent

Revenue from taxes categorized in the budge guidance as “other” is also expected to increase 4.2 percent because of rising bank stock and residential utility tax rates. Cigarette taxes are expected to decrease, and all other taxes not specifically listed should remain flat.

Predicted expenditures will also be discussed on Thursday as part of the budget guidance. The county is expected to spend 1.8 percent more on personnel, including salaries and healthcare. It also expects to spend 3.3 percent more on the Metro and 3.2 percent more on debt service than last year.

The county shares 46.5 percent of all local tax revenue with Arlington Public Schools. Given that revenue split, current tax rates, planned one-time outlays and budgetary projections, county government is expected to face a $1-3 million funding gap during FY 2017, while schools may face a deficit of more than $12 million.

Thursday’s meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the County Board Room at 2100 Clarendon Blvd, Room 307.

A joint Arlington County-APS public budget forum is scheduled from 6:30-9 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 7, at Washington-Lee High School.

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