Arlington County’s property tax rate will not be increasing in Fiscal Year 2019, though many homeowners will be paying higher taxes overall.
The Board advertised a tax rate of $1.006 per $100 in assessed value, including the stormwater tax, which is unchanged from the current fiscal year and in line with County Manager Mark Schwartz’s recommended budget. Even if the rate stays the same when the Board adopts its final budget on April 21, taxes for homeowners will be going up.
“Schwartz pointed out that even without a tax rate increase, the average Arlington homeowner will see an increase in taxes and fees of $297 a year, a 3.5 percent increase over taxes and fees in FY 2018,” according to a county press release. “The increase is due largely to the 3.8 percent increase in residential property assessments in Calendar Year 2018.”
The vote was 3-2, with Chair Katie Cristol and Board members John Vihstadt and Erik Gutshall in favor, and Vice Chair Christian Dorsey and Board member Libby Garvey opposed. Dorsey and Garvey advocated for an extra half cent in the tax rate, citing state legislation that could reduce Arlington’s tax revenue by around $2 million.
During a public comment period, school advocates called for a higher advertised rate, which could provide more money for the Arlington Public Schools budget.
More from the county press release:
The Arlington County Board today voted to advertise no increase in the tax rate for Calendar Year 2018. The Board’s action came after the County Manager proposed a Fiscal Year 2019 Budget that requires cuts in services and staffing to close an estimated $20.5 million revenue-expenditure gap within the existing tax rate.
“The demands on our budget are growing, and with continuing challenges in our office vacancy rate, our revenues are not keeping pace,” Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol said. “The Board, with the community, will spend the next two months evaluating and prioritizing how to deliver quality services within our existing tax rate.”
As cost pressures from Metro and new schools grow, Cristol warned, the Fiscal Year 2020 and 2021 budgets will require additional fiscal discipline.
“Tough choices lie ahead for our community,” she said. “But by taking these steps now to rebalance in County government spending, we aim to ensure Arlington’s fiscal sustainability in the years ahead.”
The Board voted 3 to 2 to advertise a real estate tax rate of $1.006, (including stormwater tax,) per $100 of assessed value, the same as the Calendar Year 2017 tax rate. Cristol and Board Members John Vihstadt and Erik Gutshall voted yes and Vice Chair Christian Dorsey and Board Member Libby Garvey voted no, saying they preferred to advertise a tax rate of $1.011 per $100 of assessed value.
“Arlington is at risk, with legislation pending in Richmond, of losing nearly $2 million in revenue that will affect both the County government and Schools budgets,” Dorsey said. “Revenue reductions of that magnitude will require eliminating essential programs and services, or raising the tax rate. Advertising a slightly higher tax rate would have allowed the Board to engage with our community on the best way to meet this potential fiscal challenge.”
By law, the County can adopt a real estate tax rate equal to or lower than what is advertised, but cannot adopt a higher rate. The Board also voted to advertise higher rates for some fees.