Arlington, VA

At its upcoming meeting, the County Board will adopt the latest iteration of Arlington’s Community Energy Plan. In reading the staff report, two interesting things stood out. First, the staff did not quantify how much it would cost for Arlington to reach “carbon neutral” status by 2050. Instead, the report suggested that the costs would be rolled out through future budgets and Capital Improvement Plans.

Second, the staff could not account for the final 14% in reductions in CO2 emissions. So, while they have set the ambitious goal of zero CO2 emissions by 2050, they do not yet know how they are going to get there.

We should always be wary of a government plan that does not even attempt to quantify its costs, then again it is hard to put a price tag on unknown “future opportunities.”

Next up for the County Board this fall is the annual dance with closeout spending and preparing the ground for next year’s budget.

Will County Manager Mark Schwartz speak on the next budget cycle at this week’s County Board meeting? At the 2018 September meeting, Schwartz signaled a budget gap was on the horizon for the coming year. Of course, that gap was virtually erased by the time he put forward a proposed budget.

If the real estate market is any indication of where assessments are headed for the coming year, revenue is unlikely to be a problem. Maybe Schwartz will call it the “Amazon effect?”

If revenue does jump (again), it will also free up the County Board to spend all of the available closeout funds rather than setting some aside to ease the upward pressure of real estate taxes on Arlingtonians next year. The closeout spending spree would be made even easier now that John Vihstadt is no longer sitting on the dias or considering a return to the ballot.

If Schwartz talks about a budget gap, he will almost certainly be previewing some significant spending increases. Any increases would likely be framed in terms of restoration of service and personnel cuts as well as school enrollment pressures.

Stay tuned.

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