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The Right Note: Budget Gap ‘Erased’

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.

Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz is set to unveil his proposed budget over the next few days at a County Board work session and the regular monthly meeting.

According to a Schwartz email, his budget will include just $5 million in cuts to existing staff and programs. This is $30 million less than the worst-case scenario laid out over the the past few months.

The proposed cuts would impact approximately 20 existing county staff members, many of whom would have the opportunity to apply for other vacant, but funded, positions according to Schwartz. Of note, Schwartz is using around 10 unfilled positions to “cut” spending.

The dramatic turnaround can be attributed to two things. First, stronger than expected growth in anticipated real estate revenue from assessments. Second, a tax rate increase that almost certainly has been agreed to in principle by County Board members.

Based on our track record of collecting more revenues and spending less than projected, the budget gap has already been erased. The annual closeout process would more than cover the additional $5 million. In reality, we should already anticipate a surplus to be available to the Board this November and next.

The full budget proposal will give us our first look at all of the Manager’s recommendations on spending and on the expected tax rate increase on real estate as well. As part of the budget process, the Board will advertise other tax rates and fees this month.

There is no staff report posted yet on the recommendation for personal property taxes.

The agenda indicates there will be a proposed increase in our water and sewer rates. The agenda also features a series of proposed new and increased fees on site plans, use plans, construction-related inspections, and parks and recreation programs and services. The Board will also advertise the tax rate for our three Business Improvement Districts (BIDs). The BIDs will take approximately $8.2 million out of the general budget to be spent exclusively in Rosslyn, Ballston and Crystal City.

The agenda does feature exactly one proposed reduction, on garbage (solid waste) collection which could save you $10.16 per year. Don’t spend it all in one place.

Mark Kelly is a 19-year Arlington resident, former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

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