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.
When it comes to spending taxpayer dollars in Arlington, the year-end closeout process is most in need of reform. Not only does the County Board spend nearly tens of million per year in surplus revenues, but they do so with little public input – particularly when compared to the regular annual budget process.
As a candidate for Board, I called for tax relief funded largely by the tens of millions the Board spends at the end of every calendar year. Now the Arlington Civic Federation has joined my call by passing a resolution calling on the County Board to set aside a “fair and reasonable amount” of future surpluses for real estate tax relief.
In the resolution, the Civic Federation noted that over the past five years, the Board kept $145.1 million in surplus revenue. It would only take about $7 million each year to reduce tax rates by one cent.
The Civic Federation Resolution also called for the county Board to open up the closeout process for a more “transparent and robust public process.”
We know that John Vihstadt and Libby Garvey support some sort of reform to the closeout process. Hopefully one (or both) of the two new Board members will join them.
Thumbs Down to a Delay for the Blue Ribbon Panel
The Alliance for Housing solutions sent a letter to Board Chair Libby Garvey asking her to delay the Blue Ribbon panel. The panel is charged with helping to shape a report that is due by the end of the year on the County’s comprehensive plan.
One part of the Alliance letter in particular stood out, claiming that six months is not enough time to include a diversity of opinions. One has to ask, how would shortening that time frame by 30 or 60 days help achieve their stated goal?
It seems as if the Alliance gets their way, the Board will go back to the status quo of relying on a primarily staff driven report. This would defeat the purpose of bringing in six fresh sets of eyes to review the comprehensive plan. While many Board watchers, including this one, expressed at least some skepticism of the creation of yet another panel, delaying it would only serve to reduce any positive impacts of an independent review.
One of my goals for the panel is to see it shake up the status quo and ruffle a few feathers. The fact that the Alliance felt the need to send this letter indicates it is already having that effect. The Board should make its appointments to the panel on Tuesday and start the panel process now.
Mark Kelly is the chairman of the 8th District Republican Committee, a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.