The Arlington County Board voted to allocate the just-over $11 million in surplus funds to five “near-term” needs, but clashed over its use for affordable housing.
Board members voted 4-1 to follow County Manager Mark Schwartz’s recommendations and allocate the funds in the following ways:
- Affordable Housing Investment Fund: $5.2 million in one-time funding to be set aside for the FY 2019 budget.
- Critical Life Safety Needs: $2 million for unanticipated security system upgrades to the county’s Justice Center in Courthouse.
- Employee Compensation: $1.75 million to reflect changes in federal law on several position classes in public safety.
- County Manager Operating Contingent: $1.25 million to address “unforeseen needs that arise during the fiscal year without reprioritizing or cutting other programs.”
- Facility Studies: $900,000 to primarily fund additional site analysis at the Buck and Carlin Springs sites, as directed by the Board.
Board member John Vihstadt voted against the proposal, and instead tried to free up the funds for three items — the Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF), the manager’s operating contingent and facility studies — for next year’s budget cycle. Vihstadt said those three recommendations were not emergency needs.
“These may well be necessary and appropriate, but this is not reason enough for me to short-circuit the extensive and robust budget process the manager has already begun just because the money is here now,” Vihstadt said. “It doesn’t mean that every penny should be spent. Let’s hold this up to the air and the light and the sun and consider everything holistically as part of the budget cycle that comes in the next few months.”
But Vihstadt’s plan failed on a 4-1 vote, while a similar plan by Board member Libby Garvey to not allocate the $5.2 million in AHIF funding and instead give Schwartz room to make a decision on where it could go went down 3-2.
Fellow Board members were critical of the proposals. Vice Chair Katie Cristol said it is imperative for the facility studies to advance, while Board chair Jay Fisette said denying money for affordable housing was “undermining a key priority to the community.”
“In my view, Mr. Vihstadt’s alternative proposal undermines the current Board priority on affordable housing,” Fisette said.
At the same meeting, the Board provided its budget guidance to Schwartz for FY 2019, and asked him to propose a “balanced budget within the existing tax rate.” The guidance also calls on Schwartz to “include expenditure or service enhancements that are fully offset by reallocations or fee revenue increases.”
The Board approved a 1.5-cent property tax hike for FY 2018 earlier this year, and expects to see moderate revenue growth for FY 2019.
“However, there is uncertainty regarding the impact of the state and federal budgets, as well as potential legislative changes to federal income tax policy, on the County, and real estate assessments are not yet known,” the Board wrote. “Further, the projected moderate increase in revenues is not keeping pace with budget pressures in expenditures, creating an expected budget gap of $10-13 million for FY 2019.”
Board members called on Schwartz to maintain affordable housing funding, and allocate 46.6 percent of county revenue to Arlington Public Schools, consistent with previous years.
They also said Schwartz should include funding for Metro that does not exceed the proposed 3 percent cap on annual increases in funding, and assumes that a new state or regional funding source will cover higher capital costs.
The budget process, which is already underway for FY 2019, will kick into high gear in the new year.
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Arlington and its neighbors have become more segregated in the last 10 years while fair housing legislation at the state level faces significant roadblocks. Arlington’s fair housing enforcement, education, and commitment to equity practices in housing policy and programs are beginning to show signs of improvement but much more needs to be done.
Join the NAACP Arlington Branch, HOME of Virginia, and Equal Rights Center for the 2nd Annual Arlington Fair Housing Conference on April 15th to discuss the threats and opportunities to advancing fair housing policy across the state and within Arlington.
The half-day, in-person event will feature speakers from fair housing advocacy organizations and government agencies including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and focus on fair housing policy trends in Virginia and Arlington County. The conference aims to advance the understanding of issues and policies related to equity and affirmatively further fair housing among local officials, advocates, and members of the public.
2nd Annual Arlington Fair Housing Conference
Is home ownership a goal of yours in 2023? Now is the time to make it happen! Grab a (virtual) drink with the area’s top Real Estate experts, learn all about the home buying process and on how you can get $1,500 towards your closing costs immediately!
Did you know the average Arlington renter will spend $150K in 5 years of renting? Stop paying down someone else’s mortgage! Join us for a Rent vs. Buy Happy Hour on Wednesday, April 5th at 6 p.m. via Zoom. If this time doesn’t work, we also are offering times convenient for your schedule!
A lot has happened in the local market since the beginning of the pandemic. Sip on your drink of choice and learn from Northern Virginia, Arlington and Washingtonian Magazines top producing agents! We will discuss the latest market updates, the home buying process and rent vs. buy cost savings. Please RSVP by clicking here.
Call/text Manavi at 703-869-6698 with any questions!
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Join us at the WHS Spring Festival on April 22, 2023, from 10am- 3pm at Wakefield High School(main parking lot). Come out to shop, play, and eat!
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