President Trump’s first budget proposal and its ramped-up defense spending could help Arlington’s economy, according to experts, but local lawmakers worry that cuts elsewhere in the federal government could hurt.
Trump’s budget blueprint for fiscal 2018, entitled “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” calls for $54 billion in additional defense spending.
The budget plan would cut federal funding to a swath of programs to help offset the increased defense spending, including a number that help lower-income residents.
That would likely mean a spending boon at the Pentagon, which has approximately 25,000 military and civilian occupants daily.
In addition, defense contractors based in the county could see more work go their way, as well as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, an Arlington-based Department of Defense agency.
Frank Shafroth, director of the Center for State and Local Government Leadership at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government, added that DARPA work can be just as lucrative. DARPA “often subcontracts up to $7 for every dollar spent in house,” Shafroth said.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said the effects of decreased defense spending under President Obama, the result of the federal budget sequester, must be tackled but not in this way.
“We should be serious about addressing the fiscal issues in our country and work together to address the impact that the across-the-board spending cuts have had on the military and our national security,” Warner said in a statement. “However, the roadmap the President has laid out does not meet those goals.”
Of concern in Arlington is reduced spending on the State Department, which operates three D.C.-area field offices in Arlington. Trump’s plan would cut $10.1 billion from State and the U.S. Agency for International Development. That cut could force the closure or downsizing of those field offices, which handle security and investigations among other roles.
“Budgets show us a President’s priorities, and based on what President Trump released today, I’m concerned that he’s continuing to push policies that would hurt Virginians,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said in a statement last week. “While I support the Administration’s commitment to investments in defense, deep cuts to the State Department jeopardize our national security.”
“President Trump wants to spend more on defense and border security while making huge cuts to what they defend: our people, our health, and our environment,” he said. “These extreme cuts will hit my constituents particularly hard, including many federal workers at the State Department and Environmental Protection Agency. But their pain will be felt across the entire country.”
Any gains on the defense side may be offset by losses elsewhere, as Trump’s budget plan seeks to shrink the federal workforce. With a hiring freeze already in place, further cuts could be coming.
Analysis by the Stephen S. Fuller Institute at GMU found that Northern Virginia could lose as many as 3,600 federal jobs, under the assumption that between 5.4 and 6.6 percent of all federal jobs in the region are lost.
And the analysis found that any gains in DoD and other departments may not be enough to lessen the impact of losses elsewhere.
Despite others’ gloomy predictions, Shafroth said he is optimistic that Arlington can weather any storms, given how central it is in defense spending.
“On net, especially given the serious situation with North Korea, I believe there will be major job disruption, but, at the end of the day the county’s critical role in national defense and the very large increase in federal spending will lead to disruption, but close to a net overall wash,” he said.
Flickr pool photo (top) by Michael Coffman
Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz has proposed a series of budget cuts to halve his proposed two cent tax increase to one cent.
The cuts to Schwartz’s proposed budget total $11.1 million and include everything from a multi-million dollar reduction in school funding to a reduction of hours at the Glencarlyn library and the elimination of a management intern position in the parks department.
From a county press release:
The potential reductions would affect a range of County services, including Human Services, Libraries, Parks and Recreation, Community Planning and Housing and Economic Development. The options also include eliminating both planned service improvements in the streetlight program and additional staff for the County jail. Schwartz also recommended that, based on the principles of revenue sharing between County Government and Arlington Public Schools (APS), $3.5 million of the cuts from the on-going budget and $1.7 million of the cuts from the one-time budget come from the APS budget.
The Arlington County Board advertised Schwartz’s recommended two cent tax rate increase but also asked him to recommend some budget cuts, as an option to consider.
“Putting together budget reduction options is always difficult, particularly given the growing demands and potential impacts on our community,” Schwartz said in a statement. “The package makes no change to the additional resources committed to Metro. Since we presented our Proposed Budget on Feb. 25, jurisdictions are facing a Metro funding deficit that may grow even larger.”
Under the advertisement, the Board cannot raise the property tax rate more than two cents for every $100 in assessed value this year. (At last month’s meeting, Board members Libby Garvey and Christian Dorsey proposed, unsuccessfully, setting the advertised rate three cents higher than the current $0.991 for every $100.)
The Board will hold public hearings on the budget and the tax rate on March 28 and March 30, respectively. Final adoption of the budget is scheduled for April 22.
Gutshall Running for County Board — As predicted, business owner Erik Gutshall is running for County Board this year, seeking the seat being vacated by Jay Fisette. Gutshall says on his website that his candidacy will be announced at the Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting on Wednesday. Gutshall unsuccessfully challenged County Board member Libby Garvey in last year’s Democratic primary. [Erik Gutshall for County Board]
Oscars Flub Involved W-L Grad — Warren Beatty is back atop the national consciousness, after an envelope mix-up led to perhaps the worst mistake in Oscars history, with Beatty and Best Picture co-presenter Faye Dunaway at the center of the fiasco. As many long-time Arlingtonians remember, Beatty spent his teenage years in Arlington, reportedly living on N. Huntington Street. He graduated from Washington-Lee High School and, as noted in a yearbook photo, was a star football player and the senior class president. [InsideNova]
Arlington Elementary Schools Top Rankings — In new rankings of D.C. area public elementary schools, Arlington elementary schools tallied a sweep of all the top 10 spots. [Niche, Washington Business Journal]
ACPD Trying Out Uber Lane — This past weekend in Clarendon, the Arlington County Police Department set up a designated rideshare pickup lane to improve safety for those using Uber and Lyft to get a ride home from the bars. The police department described the action as a “pilot program” that was the result of “creative problem solving.” [Twitter]
Arlington’s ‘Segregation Wall’ — A new historic marker notes the significance of a 1930s-era wall in north Arlington. The wall was built by white residents of the Waycroft-Woodlawn neighborhood to provide a physical barrier between them and the historically black Hall’s Hill (High View Park) neighborhood. [InsideNova]
Loan for Affordable Apartments Approved — The Arlington County Board on Saturday approved a $7.4 million loan to help build 125 new affordable apartments at the Berkeley on S. Glebe Road. Nonprofit developer AHC is expected to seek another loan for the redevelopment, from the county’s affordable housing fund, next fiscal year. [Arlington County]
Per-Student Spending to Rise — Under a new budget proposed by Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy, per-student spending would rise 2.9 percent to $19,521. APS has been straining to keep up with rising enrollment, issuing bonds to build new schools and renovate others. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
County residents could see a property tax hike of up to 2 cents per $100 of assessed value after the Arlington County Board voted Saturday to advertise the possible maximum increase.
County Manager Mark Schwartz said the hike would pay for what he described as the “extraordinary circumstances” facing the board in increasing costs for Arlington Public Schools and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
Under the 2-cent rise, APS and WMATA would each receive half of the added tax revenue. The average tax and fee burden for residential properties would increase by around $300 a year, factoring in a rise in property assessments, while the residential property tax rate would reach $1.011 for every $100 in assessed value, the highest rate since 2001.
Board members approved the measure by a 3-2 vote, with Libby Garvey and Christian Dorsey voting against. The vote included a proposal by board member John Vihstadt to request that Schwartz explore alternative budget options if property taxes increase by only 1 cent.
But both Dorsey and Garvey criticized Vihstadt’s plan, saying it was “too late in the game” to be introducing such a proposal.
“I totally support the whole idea of exploring these alternatives, but the way we do it now by rolling it into this action, we’re changing the budget process,” Dorsey said.
Board chairman Jay Fisette said that Schwartz’s proposal is just the beginning of talks about the county’s budget.
“Today we received the manager’s proposed budget, and we set the maximum tax rates and fees that we can consider,” Fisette said. “Now the responsibility shifts to us. This is the start of the Board’s conversation with the public about priorities for fiscal 2018. For the next nearly two months, we will be scrubbing the manager’s proposed budget and listening to the community.”
The proposed $1.2 billion fiscal 2018 budget includes $759.3 million in the county operations budget, a 3.9 increase over fiscal 2017. Also proposed are increases in household solid waste rates, a water/sewer rate increase, a new accessory homestay permit fee of $60 for those who use online booking platforms like Airbnb and various parks and recreation program fee changes.
Schwartz said APS faces challenges around its growing enrollment, which he said grows by approximately 1,000 students each year. His budget would include $478.3 million funding for the school system, an increase by $11.1 million.
“Simply put, Arlington Public Schools is facing an enrollment tsunami,” Schwartz said. “Each year, they have additional students come; whether they want them or not, additional students show up and they need to be be educated.”
Metro represents another fiscal stumbling-block for the county, as well as the region at large. Currently, Schwartz said, Arlington pays 8 percent of the agency’s total operating costs, to the tune of $56 million.
Metro general manager Paul Wiedefeld proposed all jurisdictions increasing their subsidy, with its fiscal 2018 proposal asking that Arlington increase its subsidy to around $71 million.
That subsidy would be funded in part by state transit aid, staff reductions at WMATA, gas tax funding and money from the Transform I-66 project. It would leave a gap of approximately $6 million, with the additional penny of real estate tax adding $7.4 million.
The board will hold a series of budget work sessions next month, then public hearings on the budget and the tax rate on March 28 and March 30, respectively. The latter will include discussion on members’ possible pay rises. The board is expected to adopt the budget on April 22.
Superintendent Presents Proposed Budget — Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy presented his proposed, $617 million budget to the School Board last night. The budget includes $9.2 million for student enrollment growth and $8.7 million for teacher and staff pay increases. [Arlington Public Schools]
Wakefield Girls Advance to Regional Finals — With a semifinal win in Leesburg, the Wakefield High School girls basketball team has advanced to a regional championship game for the first time in the program’s history. They will play defending champs Edison tomorrow (Saturday) at Edison. The boys team, meanwhile, lost in the regional semifinals; both teams will also advance to the state tournament. [InsideNova, Facebook]
More on the County Budget — County Manager Mark Schwartz presented his proposed FY 2018 budget to the County Board Thursday afternoon. His budget presentation suggested that Arlington will make service delivery and customer service a priority in the upcoming fiscal year. Among the initiatives that may be coming soon: building a one-stop county permitting system and providing “virtual access to public meetings.” [PDF]
‘Blarney Blowout’ Coming to Arlington — The Shamrock Crawl bar crawl may not be coming back to Clarendon this year, but its organizers are planning a new event dubbed the Blarney Blowout. Four Clarendon and Courthouse bars are participating in the event, on the day after St. Patrick’s Day, featuring a “free all-you-can-eat breakfast Buffet, St. Paddy’s Day shenanigans, entertainment, party favors and more.” The event is “not your traditionally tame “kegs and eggs,” its website says. [Blarney Blowout]
(Updated at 5:30 p.m.) A new $1.2 billion budget proposed by Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz would boost core services — road paving, streetlight maintenance, public safety, schools and Metro — while raising property taxes to the highest rate since 2001.
The proposed FY 2018 budget is being presented to the County Board this afternoon (Thursday).
Spending under Schwartz’s proposal — drafted with guidance from the County Board — would increase 4.3 percent, while the tax rate would increase by two cents, from $0.991 to $1.011 for every $100 in assessed. That would be Arlington’s highest property tax rate since 2001, when it was $1.023.
The rate increase would come on top of rising property assessments — up 2.9 percent this year. The total tax and fee burden on the average Arlington homeowner would rise by $308 to $8,613 under Schwartz’s proposal, which will now be considered by the County Board after a series of work sessions and public hearings. That’s up from $7,745 three years ago, in 2014.
Final adoption of the new budget is scheduled for April 22, while the Arlington Public Schools budget — Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy is presenting his proposed budget tonight — is scheduled to be adopted on May 4.
Last year, Schwartz proposed a half-cent property tax rate decrease, which was then adopted by the Board. This year, Schwartz says more revenue is necessary to fund the “clearly extraordinary needs of Metro and APS.”
The two-cent rate increase itself is expected to bring in an additional $14.8 million in on-going revenue. Much of that is earmarked by Schwartz for an overall $21.2 million increase in funding for Arlington Public Schools, which is experiencing a prolonged period of enrollment growth, and additional funding for Metro, which is also set to receive $22 million in bond funds from Arlington for capital projects.
“It is never easy to recommend an increase in property tax rates, but Metro and our public schools are both vitally important to our County’s continued prosperity, and both are in urgent need of additional funding,” Schwartz said in a press release.
Other areas of spending increases, as outlined in the press release and in a press briefing Thursday morning, include streetlight maintenance, road paving, facilities maintenance, land acquisition, public safety and economic development.
Schwartz said streetlight maintenance and road maintenance, in particular, were identified as top priorities in resident satisfaction surveys.
The number of county-owned streetlights has increased 40 percent over the past five years, contributing to an average repair time of 30 days for minor outages and up to 120 days for major outages. Under the proposed budget, there would be an $910,000 increase in streetlight and trail light funding, adding five new full-time positions, two vehicles, a consultant, equipment and supplies, with the goal of reducing the length of minor repairs to 3 days and major repairs to 1-2 months.
“It’s a safety issue,” Schwartz said of dark streetlights. “People want their government to do the basics before other things.”
Road paving, meanwhile, would receive a $3.3 million boost in funding, with $15.2 million budgeted by Schwartz in FY 2018. Arlington has accelerated its paving program over the past few years, with the goal of raising the county’s Pavement Condition Index to the “high 70s” on a 1-100 scale, according an official at the briefing.
Schwartz’s budget includes $3.5 million for maintenance of synthetic turf fields and other county facilities, $2 million for land acquisition, $250,000 in grants to connect businesses to the county’s ConnectArlington fiber network, a new economic development employee focused on assisting child care businesses, and a 3.25 percent merit salary increase for county employees.
Also included are seven additional sheriff’s deputies, three additional 911 call-takers three additional police officers, all funded “through reallocation of existing resources,” plus two large fire department recruit classes to make up for projected retirements and other attrition.
“[The budget] continued the multi-year-focus on the three priorities I have laid out: economic development, service delivery and transparency, and strategic budget planning and fiscal sustainability, while addressing the core service demands of the County mainly through budget reallocations,” said Schwartz.
Schwartz proposes raising a number of county fees, to “bear a reasonable relationship to the service for which the fee is imposed,” including:
- Raising the household solid waste rate by $6.88 to $314.16 annually
- Raising the water/sewer rate by 35 cents to $13.62 per thousand gallons, an estimated annual increase of $24.50 per household
- New “accessory homestay” (Airbnb, etc.) permit fee of $60
- An unspecified increase in aquatics and gymnastics program fees “to meet the increased capacity in the programs.”
The public budget and tax/fee hearings are scheduled for March 28 and 30.
Official: No Voter Fraud in Arlington — On Sunday president-elect Donald Trump tweeted an accusation of “serious voter fraud” in several states, including Virginia. In response, Arlington’s top election official said there were no reports of voter fraud in the county, which Trump lost by a wide margin. “I want to see the evidence as to what the allegations are,” said Linda Lindberg. [WJLA, Fox 5]
County and APS Budget Forum — Arlington County and Arlington Public Schools will be holding a joint budget forum tomorrow (Wednesday) from 6-8 p.m. at Wakefield High School. “During this forum, participants will have the opportunity to share their priorities and ideas on the 2018 budget,” said a press release. [Arlington County]
Local College Student Dies — Nicole Orttung, a National Merit Scholar who graduated from Yorktown High School, died last Tuesday. Orttung was a student at Columbia University, where she was “known for her dedication to social justice and bright personality.” [Legacy]
Advice from a Still-Grieving Husband — Neal Lawson, whose wife Jennifer was killed by a passing dump truck while she was putting her toddler into a car seat, is still two-and-a-half years later, “managing his own loss and grief while balancing the emotional needs and daily schedules of his growing children.” He recently offered some advice for others dealing with profound loss. [Washington Post]
Donation from 9/11 5K — The annual Arlington Police, Fire & Sheriff 9/11 Memorial 5K Race, which was held in September, helps to raise money for military and first responder charities. Among the donations from the race this year was a $21,000 donation to TAPS, which provides care to the survivors of fallen U.S. service members. [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
(Updated on 11/21/16 at 3:50 p.m.) The Arlington School Board discussed its budget guidance for 2018 at its meeting Tuesday. Included in the discussion: plans to move the Arlington Public Schools administrative offices.
Currently, top APS administrators have offices at the Education Center at 1426 N. Quincy Street. But the school system is considering signing a lease that would move APS offices from the Education Center and elsewhere to the Syphax Education Center at 2110 Washington Blvd.
That would free up classroom space for overcrowded Washington-Lee High School or, potentially, for a countywide high school program.
“While the Ed Center property will be considered for additional high school seats, the School Board has not made any decision regarding how this space will be used as secondary seats, but the plan does not automatically add capacity to Washington-Lee,” said APS spokesman Frank Bellavia. “The Board will have a conversation with the community about whether it will be a countywide high school program, what type of program, and how to use this additional space for secondary seats in the future.”
“The proposed budget direction prioritizes increased compensation for staff; supports continued investment in initiatives to meet the needs of the whole child and provide 21st century learning opportunities; provides full staffing for growing enrollment; and assumes full funding from the County’s transfer to pay for critical needs of the school division,” said the press release. “Additionally, the Board’s budget direction includes efforts to identify cost savings, options for increased fees, and opportunities to use closeout funding to pay for one-time expenses.”
The School Board, meanwhile, is thanking Arlington voters for approving a $139 million school bond measure that will fund school construction necessary to keep up with increasing school enrollment.
From Arlington Public Schools:
Approximately 79.5 percent of voters supported the bond, which will be dedicated to addressing growing capacity needs throughout Arlington County.
“Thank you to the entire community. We have an incredible community that really supports our schools,” said School Board Chair Nancy Van Doren. “Here in Arlington we are proud to enjoy continued support from the community that is clearly committed to our schools.”
She continued, “One demonstration of this commitment is the strong voter approval of our 2016 School Bond, which passed with just under 80% of the vote. The success of our Bond campaign this year was due in large part to our two Bond Co-Chairs, Monique O’Grady and Peter Fallon. We owe a big thank you to Monique and Peter for their efforts.” The allocation of the $138.8 million will fund the following projects:
- $26,030,000 will be used as the majority funding to build an addition at the Stratford building to add 339 seats.
- $78,400,000 will be used as the majority funding for construction of the new school at the Wilson site to add an estimated 775 seats.
- $12,000,000 will be used to renovate the Career Center/Arlington Tech to add 300 seats.
- $10,000,000 will be used for planning and design to build an additional 1,300 secondary seats [location(s) TBD].
- $12,400,000 will be used for HVAC, roofing, and other infrastructure improvement projects at existing APS buildings.
Information on the 2016 school bond and all of the projects planned in the 2017-26 APS Capital Improvement Plan is available online.
Home Prices Declining? — For the past two months, the median home sale price in Arlington has declined year-over-year. For September the median sale price was $515,000, down 10 percent compared to one year earlier. [WTOP]
Record Absentee Voting Expected — The total number of absentee ballots cast in Arlington is expected to reach 43,000 this year, smashing the county’s previous record of 35,000 in 2008. Arlington’s elections office hired “considerable extra staff” this year to meet voter demand. [Arlington County]
Va. Voter Registration Extended — To make up for a system failure before the Virginia’s voter registration deadline, a federal judge has ordered registration be extended through midnight tonight. [Politico]
Budget Guidance Anticipates Gap — County officials are projecting a $5.4 million funding gap for Arlington’s FY 2018 budget. That assumes a 2 percent growth in revenue, a 2.9 percent growth in expenditures, service levels remaining unchanged and the tax rate remaining at $0.991 per $100, which the county notes is the lowest rate in Northern Virginia. [Arlington County]
Local Man Competing in Maccabiah Games — David Ostroff, an Arlington resident, has been chosen to represent the United States on the 35+ Masters basketball team in the 20th World Maccabiah Game in Israel next summer. Ostroff is currently raising money for his sponsorship. [Maccabi USA]
Note: Photo (above) does not imply sponsorship or endorsement.
The County Board tonight (Tuesday) is expected to discuss what to do with the extra cash as part of its annual budget close-out process, which has previously been criticized for a lack of public input.
The public will have a month to weigh in on the draft recommendations before a final vote in November.
The County Manager’s budget close-out recommendations were posted online Monday morning. Among the recommendations:
- $0.95 million for police equipment, replacement of emergency generators and other “critical life safety needs.”
- $2.5 million for land acquisition and costs associated with temporary facilities for Fire Station 8 and Fire Station 10.
- $1.0 million for expanding the use of a key rainy-day reserve fund to include “unanticipated expenditure requirements, such as weather events.”
- $2.1 million for rent subsidies that benefit low income, elderly and disabled residents.
- $7.0 million for the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund, which will provide much of the $9.4 million in one-time funding for the fund budgeted for FY 2017.
- $1.7 million for various capital projects and maintenance.
- $1.0 million for “unforeseen needs that arise during the current fiscal year.”
- $1.6 million reserved for future allocations, to be considered as part of the FY 2018 budget process.
Overall county revenue was above projections for FY 2016. (See partial table, above.) The $17.8 million in close-out funding is a result of the extra revenue and conservative budgeting, county officials say, but it’s a lower percentage of the General Fund budget — 2.3 percent — than previous years.
“While this amount is significant in dollar terms, it is the lowest as a percent of total budget in recent years, reflecting increased expenditure levels due to the lifting of the hiring slowdown and the significant snow events of this past winter,” staff wrote.
The close-out allocations are intended to closely align with existing County Board policies and priorities.
It “expands on the approach taken last year where allocations of available funding are
focused on a few major categories of priorities consistent with County Board policies” and “moves away from the occasional past practice of providing initial funding for new
programs via close-out,” county staff wrote.
While some critics have suggested that the county deliberately over-budgets so that it can have a “slush fund” left over at the end of the year, county staff argue that its conservative budgeting is necessary to keep Arlington’s top-notch bond rating and smooth out budgetary “bumps” throughout the year.
“It is important to note that good financial management and retention of the triple-AAA bond ratings require that the County ends each year with a surplus (revenues in excess of projections or expenditures less than budget),” said the staff report. “The County’s historically conservative budgeting practices have allowed us to accommodate unanticipated events (snow, state / federal budget cuts) without having to go back to the County Board and community for mid-year service reductions and budget cuts.”
Board to Consider Arts Grants — The Arlington County Board on Saturday is set to consider its latest round of annual grants to local arts organizations. Among the 18 organizations being allocated a portion of the $215,810 in financial support for the arts are the Arlington Arts Center ($20,547), Bowen McCauley Dance ($27,237), Encore Stage and Studio ($24,715) and Washington Shakespeare Company ($24,247). [Arlington County]
ACFD Says Thanks for Fire Staffing — The Arlington County Fire Department thanked residents yesterday for fully funding safe fire truck staffing levels and an additional peak-time medic unit with the county’s latest Fiscal Year 2017 budget. The new budget took effect July 1. [Twitter]
Landscapers Volunteer at Arlington National — A group of some 400 professional landscapers from around the country volunteered their time at Arlington National Cemetery on Monday to help spruce up the grounds. The annual event is organized by the National Association of Landscape Professionals. [WTOP]
Extended Construction Hours for Ballston Project — The County Board will consider a proposal by Marymount University and developer the Shooshan Company to temporarily extend the construction hours at the “Blue Goose” project in Ballston. The proposal would extend construction hours to 1:30 a.m. for eight weeks, to allow nighttime deliveries of construction materials that would otherwise require lane closures on Glebe Road and Fairfax Drive during the day. [InsideNova]
Lane Closures on GW Parkway — Expect single lane closures on the northbound GW Parkway, 2.5 miles north of Key Bridge, due to repair work on a stone wall along the Parkway. The closures will be in place from 8 p.m.-5 a.m. through Wednesday. [Patch]
Those are some of the highlights from the $582 million Fiscal Year 2017 budget adopted by the Arlington School Board on Thursday night.
- A step increase for all eligible employees ($7.6 million)
- An increase of 1.75% for eligible employees at the top of the salary scale or on a longevity step ($2.4 million)
- An increase in the minimum wage to $14.50 per hour ($150,000)
- An increase in School Board salaries ($14,760)
- Implementation of a parental leave benefit of two weeks of paid leave ($0.5 million)
- An increase in the Live Where You Work program to provide additional grants as well as the implementation of rental assistance grants (similar to the County’s program) at a cost of $68,700
Arlington Public Schools issued the following press release about the budget’s adoption.
The Arlington School Board adopted its FY 2017 final budget at last night’s meeting. The approved budget totals $581,941,859 which includes an additional $2,042,993 in ongoing County funds and an additional $1,336,437 from the Future Budget Years Reserve. The additional County and Future Budget Years Reserve funds closed the funding gap to ensure a balanced budget was adopted.
“We worked closely as a Board with our staff and advocated to our County colleagues to make certain that APS has the funding that is necessary to meet the needs of our growing school division,” stated School Board Chair Dr. Emma Violand-Sanchez. “The Board has also invested in additional areas that will meet the instructional needs of our students, support the whole child and provide the necessary staff to ensure all students can succeed.”
The School Board has designated that all of the additional funds be used to invest in instructional support, infrastructure, and staff needed to continue progress toward achieving strategic goals of the school division.
The School Board’s adopted FY17 Budget also included staff compensation increases totaling $10.2 million, including a step increase for all eligible employees, an increase of 1.75% for eligible employees at the top of the salary scale or on longevity steps, and implementation of two weeks of paid parental leave.
“It is critical that APS offers competitive staff compensation and benefits to ensure that we continue to retain and attract the most talented employees to work here,” said Dr. Violand-Sanchez. “We are proud to provide, for the first time, two weeks of paid parental leave, to enhance our “Live Where You Work” assistance for our employees, and to raise the minimum wage to $14.50 an hour. Our APS educators are a crucial factor in our students’ success.”
The FY 2017 budget designates APS operating funds for July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2017.
That’s nearly $4 million more than was spent the previous winter, when the county almost ran out of salt due to a succession of snow storms.
The total roadway snow removal expenditure — the figures quoted here do not include removing snow from bus shelters or sidewalks — for Fiscal Year 2015 was only $2.7 million, according to Arlington County. As of April 25, the FY 2016 bill was $6.5 million, about $5 million of which was associated with the cleanup from January’s Snowzilla blizzard, as the county revealed last month.
Why was this year’s bill so much higher? It’s mostly attributable to equipment rental costs, we’re told.
“The majority of this cost increase was associated with heavy contract equipment used during the January 22-29, 2016 blizzard,” explained Mike Moon, Chief Operating Officer of Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services.
“The amount of contract equipment deployed for this event far exceeded the requirements for the previous year and cost more than $4.0 million,” Moon continued. “With more than two feet of snow, heavy contract equipment was needed for the effort, which included hauling snow in our commercial corridors (Rosslyn, Ballston, Crystal City).”
Last month Arlington said that it can potentially recoup $2 million from federal disaster assistance funds, though the reimbursement process is a lengthy one.
Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz said in March that the county is considering changes to its snow removal efforts in the wake of January’s blizzard. Among the changes being considered is the purchase of additional heavy equipment and a new snow melter.
Flickr pool photo (top) by Starbuck77
The Board largely took the recommendations of County Manager Mark Schwartz, who presented his proposed budget in February, and voted unanimously for the new, $1.2 billion FY 2017 budget.
Under the budget, the property tax rate will be reduced by half a cent, to $0.991 for every $100 in assessed value, while the overall property tax burden on the average homeowner will increase from $7,640 to $7,829. The increase is due to a 2.8 percent rise in residential property assessments.
The budget provides more money for Arlington Public Schools than APS asked for, in stark contrast to the budget battle in Fairfax County.
APS, which is continuing to grapple with a burgeoning student population, will get a $466.9 million budget transfer from the county, a 3.3 percent increase over the previous fiscal year. That includes “$1.1 million in one-time and ongoing funding above the School Board’s funding request.”
The budget includes the biggest boost to Arlington’s public safety funding in years, satisfying some long-sought requests.
The fire department will get eight additional firefighters to convert existing three-person fire units to the recommended safe staffing level of four per unit. ACFD will also get four additional firefighters to address persistent strains to medic unit staffing during peak times.
“A positive step forward for public safety,” the Arlington Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association said via Twitter.
The police department will get six new officers to help the department “meet its core mission responsibilities.” The Sheriff’s Office, which is facing a lawsuit over the alleged mistreatment of a deaf jail inmate, is getting five new positions to “improve safety and security at the Courthouse and the Detention Center, bolster its administrative staff and add a uniformed American with Disabilities Act coordinator.”
Other notable budget items include:
- An additional $1.5 million for Arlington Economic Development, “to focus on lowering the commercial vacancy rate.”
- $13.6 million for the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund, which is $1.1 million more than proposed by the manager.
- “Modest funding to continue the County’s open data efforts” and funding for livestreaming County Board work sessions and certain commission meetings.
- Merit pay increases for county employees.
- An increase in the living wage for county employees to $14.50 per hour, plus tuition reimbursement and continued funding for the Live Where You Work program.
“This is a good budget,” Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said in a statement. “Even as our population and school enrollment continue to grow, and our office vacancy rate remains high, the Board was able to put together a budget that preserves our community’s values, gives schools more funding than they requested, and adds funding for public safety, economic development and other key services – with a slight decrease in the tax rate.”
The budget is a complex document and the adopted budget is not yet online. Know of any other notable budget items not included here? Any quiet boosts or cuts in funding to a certain group or county department? Let us know in the comments.
Today Covers Arlington Couple Picking Baby Name — An Arlington County has named three children after former presidents, but is now seeking help naming their fourth child, a girl. Potential names include Kennedy, Reagan, Pierce and Monroe. [Today Show]
School Board Releases Proposed Budget — The Arlington School Board has released its proposed, $582 million budget and is now seeking public comment on it. Final school budget adoption is scheduled for May 5. [Arlington Public Schools]
Civic Federation Meetings May Be Streamed — Future Arlington Civic Federation meetings may be live streamed, courtesy of help from the TV production program at the Arlington Career Center. Arlington County recently started streaming commission meetings. [InsideNova]
Millions for Melwood from Local Couple — An Arlington couple has donated $3 million of their estate to Melwood, which provides services and job opportunities to those with disabilities. The donors are Geraldine “Gerry” Schaeffer, a prominent local psychiatrist who died in 2013, and her husband Peter M. Kolls, a former pro football player for the San Diego Chargers who retired from the National Park Service. Kolls passed away last year. The couple loved to travel but otherwise lived frugally, we’re told. The gift is one of the largest received by Maryland-based Melwood, according to a press release.
Arlington Teacher and Principal of the Year — McKinley Elementary principal Colin Brown has been named the 2016 Arlington Public Schools Principal of the Year. Oakridge Elementary teacher Jennifer Burgin, meanwhile, has been named Teacher of the Year.
Va. Square Hess Station Rebranded — The Hess gas station in Virginia Square has been rebranded as a “Speedway” station. [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Samer Farha