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The Right Note: Is Amazon Hurting the 2020 APS Budget?

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.

Apparently, there is a rumor being spread in our schools that staff positions are being cut next year because of the most recent vote of the County Board “to give $23 million to Jeff Bezos.” Whether you agree with Arlington’s decision to give incentives to Amazon or not, the claim deserves further examination.

First, the money being granted to Amazon comes by way of an increase in transient occupancy tax revenue which is being attributed to Amazon’s arrival. It amounts to $22.7 million over 16 years out of a total of $342.3 million in new tax dollars estimated to be generated by Amazon. It is not $23 million being given away out of next year’s budget. Moreover, if the estimates are correct, over the long haul APS will receive even more funding than it otherwise would without Amazon’s presence.

Second, nearly half of that money is anticipated to go to Amazon in years 13-16. That means the impact of the Amazon grants on the total budget for next year is minimal, even less so when weighed against another closeout windfall APS is almost certainly guaranteed to receive in November.

Third, the APS budget is increasing by 4.9% to $671.6 million next year or $23,569 per student. Proposing any reductions in current positions is nothing more than a reflection of the Superintendent’s priorities in light of a healthy and growing budget.

I have written against Tax Increment Financing in the past as I prefer to have any project stand on its own funding merits when weighed against other priorities. This is particularly true as we have had a history of borrowing to pay for basic infrastructure maintenance, and we have the continued need to address increasing school enrollment. I would also prefer that policy changes directly benefit all Arlington businesses, existing and new. However, the claim that Jeff Bezos is to blame for any cut in Superintendent Murphy’s 2020 budget proposal is misleading at best.

If you want more facts, for or against the Amazon deal, you can read the full County Board report. Page 13 of the staff presentation also has a graph which shows the long term revenue growth and the amount being given to Amazon.

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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