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The Right Note: Board Watching

Mark KellyThe 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.

Next week the County Board will open its microphones to any Arlingtonian who wishes to discuss items in the budget or the advertised tax rate. If this year holds to form, hundreds of Arlingtonians will show up to advocate for higher spending and adopting the highest tax rate. Few will speak to lowering taxes.

It would be nice if the thousands of Arlingtonians who are tired of the Board’s tax and spend record would pack the room next Thursday and make the case to hold the tax rate level, if not lower it. But past experience has taught us all that the Board will listen politely, and then do what they were going to do anyway.

The Board formally approved at least $10 million in taxpayer subsidies to lure Nestlé to Arlington — $4 million directly from our local budget. According to county staff, Arlington had to out-bid another state in order to land the company.

The staff report claims a net tax benefit to Arlington of $14.2 million over the next 10 years, though they did not include $2 million in other infrastructure improvements in this calculation. Taxpayers will likely forget by then to ask for a report of the actual tax benefit from this deal.

In the meantime, hopefully the Board will set aside some of its annual budget to provide tax relief to businesses that are already in existence by reducing the burden of the Business License Tax.

Arlington Democrats have mysteriously pushed for satellite absentee ballot locations for this fall’s elections. One can only assume local committee chairman Kip Malinosky is operating under the assumption the 2017 governor’s race is going to be close, and they are hoping to squeeze as many votes as possible out of Arlington for the Democrat nominee.

According to the Electoral Board, the request would cause a great deal of strain on both the elections staff and their budget — both of which were set up to meet the needs normal gubernatorial year elections. The Courthouse Plaza office accommodated 5,000 in-person absentee voters in 2013 — more than 15,000 fewer than the preceding year’s presidential election — with very few voters experiencing a wait of more than 10-15 minutes. They anticipate a similar number of in-person voters again this year.

After the Democratic-majority Electoral Board rejected the request, Malinosky has apparently appealed directly to the County Board. It will be interesting to see if the Board takes any action on this matter.

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