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.
The next four weeks will be all budget, all the time for the County Board. The Board will hold five work sessions with the County Manager and two public hearings before arriving at the April meeting to approve the fiscal year 2020 budget. The two public hearings provide you with an opportunity to give feedback to the Board about the levels of spending and the level of taxation.
Those who are concerned about items impacted by potential cuts, and some of those who think other spending increases are not enough, will bring a contingent of supporters to speak out at the April 2nd budget hearing. The Board will hear plenty of speeches asking for more money to be spent, and few, if any, asking for spending restraint. Multiple people will “understand budgets are tight” while making their pitch. It is unlikely anyone will point out that a proposed 4.7% spending increase is not really tight.
If past years are any indication, few people will show up to talk about taxes. Last year, it was only nine, and included Clerk of the Court Paul Ferguson. The Board spent most of the hour in recess waiting for their appointed time to expire.
The conventional wisdom percolating out there is that the Board will settle at a tax rate higher than the County Manager’s proposed 1.5% increase and lower than the advertised 2.75%. The higher rate would take nearly 6% more out of your family budget this year, retroactive to January 1st.
If you talk to Arlingtonians from across the political spectrum who are not excited about yet another property tax increase, they will usually tell you something like this, “it doesn’t matter what we say, the Board is going to do what it wants.” But what if 100 people showed up to testify against the rate increase and brought another 100 people to stand with them? The message would be clear, and the Board would not be able to just ignore it.
On April 4 at 7 p.m., you have an opportunity to send a message. You can show up and oppose a nearly 6% tax increase. Otherwise, your only option is to complain about it.
Well, there is a third option. Elect one or two new Board members in November. Sound even harder? Well, John Vihstadt still has not officially announced his plans.