Arlington, VA

Speakers at an Arlington County Board meeting on the county’s proposed Capital Improvement Plan hammered the plan’s perceived failure to live up to earlier talk of promoting equity.

The main target of most of the ire was the allegation that single-family home owners in North Arlington would receive outsized investment in stormwater protections under the plan, compared to proposed capital spending in the rest of the county.

Rather than the usual 10-year CIP cycle, County Manager Mark Schwartz proposed a one-year CIP focused on pausing and focusing on what the county describes as funding the bare necessities. Given the dramatic storms that wreaked major flooding across Arlington last year, Schwartz recommended a $50.8 million stormwater bond and millions in funding for initial projects.

“This year’s CIP also begins the County’s increased investment in stormwater infrastructure,” the County said in a press release. “The $14.6 million included in the FY 2021 plan will advance several current key projects and lays the foundation of what is expected to be a $189 million investment over 10 years.”

“For the first time, there will be a bond referendum for investments ($50.8 million) in stormwater infrastructure,” the County said. “The County is undertaking a comprehensive review to mitigate flood risks and design work is underway for significant investments in watershed-scale solutions in high-risk areas prone to flooding.”

Several speakers at last week’s online hearing, however, said that the stormwater projects disproportionately aim to protect higher-income areas of the county. Speaker Benjamin Nichols particularly targeted investments made in the Spout Run and Lubber Run watersheds.

“Making huge investments in affluent, low-density areas seems like a step in the wrong direction and seems perverse, given that single-family home development is the majority contributor to the growth of impermeable surface in Arlington County,” Nichols said. “If we’re going to make large investments in these areas on the idea that flooding is unacceptable anywhere in Arlington, we should make sure the benefits should be accrued to a broad constituency beyond the privileged few that can afford to buy a single-family house in North Arlington. Perhaps a significant upzoning would be in order.”

Nichols and other Arlingtonians have argued for funding to be restored to bicycle and pedestrian improvements cut as part of scaled-back CIP.

The criticism of the stormwater investment contrasts with sentiment in the aftermath of the flooding, which caused significant damage to homes and businesses in parts of the county like Westover.

“Do not let Arlington government off hook on flooding,” was the headline of one letter to the editor in the Sun Gazette newspaper. Another letter to the editor from last July similarly called for more county action:

“After years of study and inaction about what to do about the inadequate stormwater system, board members have been spinning rather than trying to assure residents that the problems will be solved,” the letter said. “The time to wait and sit on your hands is over — it is past time to take action.”

The CIP dedicates $26.89 million of the $50.8 million bond to the Spout Run watershed — an area north of Wilson Blvd. centered around Lee Highway communities. The first major investment in the stormwater plan is $1.2 million towards “relining of a 3,000-foot section of 33-inch Spout Run sewer main, which runs under the North Highlands neighborhood.”

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Protests over the death of George Floyd and others killed at the hands of police have sparked a debate: should police budgets be cut and the money re-allocated to social services?

The “defund the police” movement has been a particularly hot topic on social media, where some proponents have shared charts showing police budgets in U.S. cities dwarfing other expenditures, including education. The charts are misleading, though, according to fact checks — while police budgets are indeed significant, they are smaller than expenditures on schools.

In Arlington, the police department budget in the just-passed Fiscal Year 2021 budget, which takes effect on July 1, is $74.7 million. That’s 5.3% of the overall Arlington County government general fund of $1.4 billion. The police budget is one-ninth the size of the $670 million Arlington Public Schools budget passed last month.

By comparison to another locality of note, the ACPD budget — which rose from $72.1 million in the prior fiscal year — is just over a third of the police budget for the city of Minneapolis, where major changes to the police department are being formulated in response to the killing of Floyd by its officers. The city’s population is 429,606, compared to Arlington County’s population of 235,000.

The police department is one of the larger line items in Arlington County’s budget, and is just one component of Arlington’s overall public safety and law enforcement expenditures. It is, however, not the biggest single department in the budget: both the county’s Dept. of Environmental Services and Dept. of Human Services have budgets over $100 million.

Here are a few selected line items from the county budget:

  • $147.6 million — Dept. of Human Services (social services, health department, housing)
  • $110.9 million — Dept. of Environmental Services (road maintenance, water infrastructure, waste collection)
  • $103.7 million — Utilities
  • $75.0 million — Debt service
  • $74.7 million — Police department
  • $68.5 million — Fire department
  • $47.6 million — Sheriff’s office (county jail, court security)
  • $17.7 million — Courts, prosecutor’s office, public defenders
  • $13.8 million — Public safety communication and emergency management

The police department investigates thousands of crimes annually and last year faced 36 external complaints about police conduct.

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A new Arlington Public Schools budget passed late last week will increase class sizes by one student at all grade levels, starting in the fall.

The $670 million budget largely follows Interim Superintendent Cintia Johnson’s revised budget proposal, which included $54 million in cuts to her original budget, due to a projected downturn in revenue attributable to the pandemic.

The School Board voted to nix about $3 million in cuts, eliminating a proposed staff furlough day, adding back a few administrative positions, and restoring crew and band transportation, among other things.

More from an APS press release:

At its May 7 meeting, the School Board unanimously approved its Fiscal Year 2021 Arlington Public Schools (APS) Budget to fund operations for the 2020-21 school year. The FY 2021 budget totals $670,274,629.

The School Board’s FY 2021 budget requires an on-going County Transfer of $524,628,986, a beginning balance or carry forward of $3,500,000, and funding from Reserves of $16,476,194.  The School Board previously restored several items that were listed as reductions in the Interim Superintendent’s Revised Proposed Budget when they adopted their FY 2021 Proposed Budget on April 23.

These changes, totaling $3,047,119, include:

  • Eliminating a one-day furlough for all staff, resulting in no furlough days for staff during FY21
  • Restoring crew transportation;
  • Restoring the Adobe Creative Suite license renewal (for Career and Technical Education (CTE) students as well as staff use);
  • Restoring band transportation;
  • Restoring Humanities Project funding;
  • Restoring half of the proposed cut for the non-renewal Communities in Schools contract;
  • Restoring the 3.4 Attendance Specialist positions; and
  • Restoring the 1.0 administrative assistant for the Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Office.

“From the start, this has been a difficult budget year and has become even more so because of the current economic crisis created by the coronavirus pandemic,” said School Board Chair Tannia Talento. “This budget balances a revised gap of $53 million with increased class sizes of one student at every level, budget cuts to our operating budget, and cuts to baseline additions that were meant to support our growth. We worked hard to prioritize restoring some items that directly support our teachers and staff, items that sustain funding for after-school activities and other student services, and items that continue our focus and commitment to eliminating opportunity gaps.”

During budget deliberation, the Interim Superintendent shared that APS will work with the vendor to ensure Smart Notebook access for teachers for the FY 2021 budget.  In addition, the School Board directed the Interim Superintendent to establish user fees to recover operations and maintenance costs for community use of APS-owned aquatics facilities, increasing user fees by 5% for FY 2021, and continue to discount and reduce user fees according to current practice.

The Board also directed the Superintendent to prepare a fee bracket structure similar to that for the Montessori program for Extended Day fees that would take effect in FY 2022.

APS also recently announced that it would be adding two new grab-and-go meal distribution sites to its existing seven, starting this past Monday: Glebe Elementary (1770 N. Glebe Road) and Barcroft Elementary (625 S. Wakefield Street).

File photo

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Arlington County is working to publicly release data on payments to vendors, according to an email exchange between county officials and a local resident.

The new initiative came to light after a local resident filed a Freedom of Information Act Request to obtain a list of county expenditures, sorted by vendor, for fiscal years 2018 and 2019. Some other localities publicly list such information, in the interest of transparency and showing which companies were being paid by the local government.

The county’s initial response to the FOIA request was to demand payment of $8,750 to produce the information, citing a need for a budget analyst to spend 250 hours to compile it.

“The County is permitted to make reasonable charges to cover the County’s actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for any potential responsive records. The estimated cost associated with the request is $8,750.00,” the Arlington County FOIA office said in a letter. “Arlington County must review the financial data for potential exemptions to protect sensitive information on a line-item basis, which is the reason for this cost estimate.”

The resident, Patrick Lockhart, then appealed to the County Board and the County Manager to intervene. In response, the County Manager’s office agreed to waive the fee, noting that vendor payment information is set to be released through the county’s Arlington Wallet portal.

The website, which launched in early 2019, contains charts and graphs intended to give residents a clearer look at how officials are spending money each year.

There’s no word yet on when the new vendor-level expenditure information will be released, but a county official said it’s coming soon.

“Our Department of Management and Finance (DMF) has been working on the next phase of Arlington Wallet for some time now, and is actually getting close to being able to roll that out publicly,” wrote Ben Aiken, Director of Constituent Services in the County Manager’s office. “This next phase will contain the transaction level detail that will include vendor name and transaction descriptions, amongst other attributes.”

The full email is below.

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The Arlington County Board today adopted a budget for the coronavirus era.

Gone is the good budget year and the idea of expanding programs and services. In its place is a focus on preventing service reductions while supporting the most vulnerable members of the community.

The adopted Fiscal Year 2021 budget leaves the property tax rate where it was, which means a tax increase for the average homeowner, given rising property values. Following County Manager Mark Schwartz’s recommendations, it largely maintains service levels from the current budget, while providing just over $10 million in coronavirus-related relief for residents, small businesses, nonprofits and county employees.

The opening of two major new facilities — the Lubber Run Community Center and Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center — will be delayed at least a year. County employees won’t get raises, a hiring freeze will remain in effect, and the county will tap into some of its budget reserves to prevent further cuts.

More from a press release:

The Arlington County Board today adopted a $1.3 billion balanced General Fund Budget for Fiscal Year 2021 that reflects the novel coronavirus’s impact on County revenues and priorities and includes no increase in the tax rate for Calendar Year 2020.

“In just three short months, our budget priorities have been upended,” Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said, “and we know that the budget we adopted today will likely need revision in the coming months. Our focus in the coming year will be on supporting residents and small businesses hit hard by the economic fallout of the pandemic, preserving essential services and maintaining a strong financial foundation.”

Noting the uncertainty surrounding revenues and expenditures in FY 2021, The Board approved a $10.2 million contingent fund that includes $2.7 million for housing grants, permanent supportive housing, emergency food assistance, and other emergency needs and $7.5 million to assist small businesses and nonprofits, aid service delivery recovery, provide employee support, and offset any further revenue loss.

The budget reflects an estimated loss of $56 million in anticipated revenue in FY 2021, resulting in a loss of $34 million for County government and $21.6 million for Arlington Public Schools. The projected losses are in sales, meal, business license and transient occupancy taxes, Parks & Recreation fees, development fees, parking meter & parking ticket revenue, and more.

The Board voted 4 to 0 to adopt the budget, with no increase in the Calendar Year 2020 tax rate. The tax rate will remain at $1.026 (including the sanitary district tax) per $100 of assessed real estate value. Because assessments increased, the average homeowner, with a home valued at $686,300 will see an increase in the taxes and fees they pay the County, up from $9,023 in FY 2020 to $9,399 in FY 2021.

The budget maintains current levels of service, foregoes salary increases for all staff, continues a hiring freeze put in place in March, places many projects on hold, delays the opening of the Lubber Run Community Center and Long Bridge Park Fitness & Aquatics Center until Fiscal Year 2022 and uses $4.0 million in funds from the Stabilization Reserve to close the gap between revenues and expenditures.

$524.6 million will be transferred to Arlington Public Schools for its FY 2021 Budget, a slight increase over the FY 2020 ongoing funding level.

Also left on the cutting room floor in the new county budget were a series of new programs and staff positions:

  • Traffic Control Officers to assist with traffic enforcement
  • Courthouse library expansion
  • Online marriage license portal
  • Foster care housing pilot program
  • New planners, arborist, real estate appraiser, and other positions
  • Library collection expansion
  • Additional support for Housing Arlington initiative
  • Additional tree maintenance

The county noted in its press release that dozens of residents participated in virtual budget sessions and the Board received hundreds of comments on the budget, which were made part of the public record.

Moving forward, the Board instructed Schwartz “to develop a plan in the early months of Calendar Year 2021 that would identify, quantify and develop strategies to address food insecurity in Arlington, with an emphasis on child hunger.”

Schwartz was also asked to make progress on the potential launch of a curbside food waste collection service, “in keeping with the County’s 2015 Zero Waste Resolution’s goal of diverting 90 percent of solid waste from landfills and incineration.”

With the county’s budget and the Arlington Public Schools transfer now set, the School Board is scheduled to adopt its FY 2021 budget next Thursday, May 7.

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The coronavirus pandemic will mean big changes to the Arlington Public Schools budget.

Interim Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Cintia Johnson presented her revised budget to the School Board via video conference last night, detailing plans to slash $54 million from what was once an ambitious budget calling for $725.8 million in expenditures.

The new budget assumes a drop in projected revenue from $698 million to $660.6 million. To balance the budget, Johnson proposes eliminating all across-the-board pay raises, nixing other planned expenditure increases, increasing class sizes at all grade levels by one, furloughing all staff for one day next spring, and using $14 million in reserve funds.

The school system’s reserves would drop from $26.5 million to $12 million, and would eventually need to be replenished in future budgets.

“We are using a significant amount of reserve funds to balance the budget, but we believe this is the best option for APS in order to preserve our team, maintain our high quality staff, and continue our tradition of excellence,” Johnson said. “”This is an extremely unusual year that has brought increased budget pressures. as a result, we have had to make some very tough decisions.”

Johnson presented two scenarios to the Board for employee pay raises, but said neither was viable for achieving a balanced budget.

The budget also calls for eliminating the Foreign Language in Elementary School program, eliminating tuition reimbursement for staff for the year, cancelling six planned school bus purchases, delaying purchases of furniture and technology for APS administration headquarters, delaying a planned athletic field renovation at Kenmore Middle School, and delaying a number of hires.

“We have preserved, as much as possible, our quality programs and services,” Johnson told the School Board last night.

The budget includes enough staffing to absorb a 4% increase in student enrollment — projected to be 29,142 at the beginning of the school year — and increased funding for English learners and students with special needs, as mandated by a settlement with the U.S. Dept. of Justice.

APS’ cost per pupil, currently the highest among D.C. area suburbs, would drop from $19,921 to $19,624.

Johnson says there are some unknowns that may yet affect the budget, including whether APS might see any boost in funding from federal coronavirus stimulus programs like the CARES Act, or reduced funding from the state. She said the furlough day should be scheduled as late in the next school year as possible, so that it can be eliminated should additional funding become available.

After a two work sessions and public hearings, the School Board is set to adopt the final Fiscal Year 2021 budget on Thursday, May 7.

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Morning Notes

Ballston Residents Cheer for Healthcare Workers — A video shows residents in Ballston giving healthcare workers and other essential caregivers a round of applause at 8 p.m. last night. [Twitter]

New School Budget Coming Soon — “Arlington Superintendent Cintia Johnson this week will formally outline her plan to reduce spending in the wake of the health and economic crisis. Johnson will report to School Board members on April 16 with an updated budget proposal for the fiscal year beginning in July, supplanting one she had detailed less than two months ago.” [InsideNova]

‘Strong Response’ to School Board Caucus — “Less than a week after announcing a transition to a vote-by-mail process for its School Board candidate endorsement caucus, the Arlington County Democratic Committee (Arlington Dems) has received more than 2,000 ballot requests representing all 54 Arlington voting precincts.” [Press Release]

Former Va. Hospital Center Patient Donates Gowns — “In light of the coronavirus pandemic, a breast cancer survivor decided to donate her colorful hospital gowns to people going through the same thing she did.” [NBC 4]

Local TSA Employee Dies — “A second Transportation Security Administration employee died from coronavirus the same day the agency announced its first worker had died. Alberto Camacho, a branch manager for the TSA’s Acquisition Program Management in Arlington, Virginia, died April 3, according to a TSA news release.” [USA Today]

‘Buy a Neighbor Lunch’ Pilot Program — “Volunteer Arlington… announced today a new initiative to facilitate community support for local families in need of meals called Buy a Neighbor Lunch. The program enables supporters to donate individual meals to be delivered to families in need.” [Volunteer Arlington]

Dog Daycare Owner On Coronavirus Challenges — “We lost over half our business in just three short weeks… Every day puts us more and more at risk of losing everything. I’m not one who backs down from a challenge easily, but the uncertainty of this one is life-crushing and breaking my soul.” [Arlington Magazine]

Photo courtesy Amy Kelly

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No raises, few areas of additional spending and a couple of delayed openings.

That’s the summary of County Manager Mark Schwartz’s revised budget proposal, as announced by Arlington County on Monday afternoon.

The new Fiscal Year 2021 proposed budget “focuses on core essential services of government, retaining the existing workforce and proactively responding to the pandemic,” the county said in a press release.

The revision comes as Arlington expects a projected $56 million drop in revenue as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, dealing Schwartz’s formerly “good news budget” a $34 million reduction while tacking on $21.6 million to Arlington Public Schools’ already sizable budget gap.

Local and state governments have been bracing for big reductions in revenue as the pandemic causes sales tax, meals tax, hotel tax and other types of revenue to plummet.

Schwartz’s new budget proposal allocates more than $10 million for relief efforts, including food assistance, help for local businesses and nonprofits, and employee assistance. County services in the new budget are mostly kept as the current budget year’s levels, and proposed county employee pay increases have been nixed, per the county press release.

Other proposed, money-saving efforts including delaying the openings of the newly-built Lubber Run Community Center and Long Bridge Park aquatics center, as previously suggested by County Board Chair Libby Garvey.

The County Board will now hold a joint budget and tax rate hearing at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 23. Final budget adoption is scheduled for Thursday, April 30.

After advertising no tax rate increase, the County Board can only keep the current rate steady or lower it. The average homeowner is still likely to pay more in property taxes, however, given a rise in property assessments.

The full county press release is below.

As the County faces the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, County Manager Mark Schwartz presented the Arlington County Board with a revised FY 2021 Proposed Budget that focuses on core essential services of government, retaining the existing workforce and proactively responding to the pandemic.

County staff estimates a nearly $56 million drop in anticipated revenue for the FY 2021 budget–$34.0 million on the County side and $21.6 million for Arlington Public Schools.

“What was unthinkable two months ago is now in front of us,” Schwartz said. “Businesses have laid off staff, residents have lost jobs, schools have closed and only the most essential functions continue.”

In February, Schwartz presented a budget that added back targeted investments in areas that were falling behind after two years of reductions. Now, his revised budget maintains only the current levels of service, removes all salary increases, places many projects on hold, uses funds from the Stabilization Reserve, and removes almost every addition proposed only a few weeks ago.

The budget delays the opening of the Lubber Run Community Center and the Long Bridge Park Fitness & Aquatics Center until FY 2022.

The County Manager’s revised budget also responds to the pandemic. It provides funding to meet projected demand in direct life/safety services to our residents, such as housing grants, permanent supportive housing, and identifies $2.7 million for emergency needs, such as food assistance. An additional $7.5 million is set aside for potential assistance to small businesses and nonprofits, service delivery recovery and employee support, and possible additional shortfalls in revenue.

The County Board now will take up the Manager’s proposal and is expected to vote on the amended budget on Thursday, April 30. There will be a public hearing on the new FY 2021 budget proposal, followed immediately by a tax hearing, on Thursday, April 23, at 7:00 p.m.

Before the pandemic, the County Board voted to advertise a tax rate of $1.013 per $100 of assessed value for Calendar Year 2020 ($1.026 including stormwater). By law, the Board can adopt a tax rate no higher than the advertised rate.

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Morning Notes

Local Coronavirus Test Results Delayed — “When we talked to an Arlington man Tuesday, it was approaching 11 days since he’d been tested for COVID-19, and he still hadn’t received his results. ‘It’s just so frustrating,’ Daniel Miller told us via FaceTime. ‘I just want my results back. I want to be able to know what I have. I want to know if this is COVID or not.'” [WJLA]

APS to Rethink Budget Proposal — “Arlington School Board members have given Superintendent Cintia Johnson direction to start battening the hatches as the school system – like the county, state and nation – move into rough economic waters. ‘We’re going to have to look at potential tough budget times’ and ‘figure out a way to move forward,’ School Board Vice Chairman Monique O’Grady said.” [InsideNova]

Window Smashed at Rhodeside Grill — Someone smashed one of the large front windows at Rhodeside Grill in Rosslyn, which is currently shut down due to the coronavirus outbreak. [Twitter]

Local Restaurant Owner Still Optimistic — The outbreak has been devastating for the restaurant business, but some local owners are making the most of it. Amir Mostafavi, founder of the South Block juice chain, is giving away free fruit to kids in need during the crisis. “We’re going to come out of this as stronger people, as stronger businesses,” Mostafavi told NBC 4. [LinkedIn]

Bayou Bakery Closing Its Takeout Service — “Having persevered for three weeks through the limitations of the current public health situation, Arlington’s Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery is temporarily closing its doors to ‘Call-In, Carry Out’ service on April 1, 2020. Chef/owner David Guas will continue his mission to provide the community and underserved kids and families with free, grab-and-go meals.” [Press Release]

Shuttle Bus Company Helps Collect Food — “FLARE, an amenity electric shuttle service, along with the Aurora Highlands Civic Association, collected and delivered over 800 lbs. of food donations from the Crystal City area for the Arlington Food Assistance Center on Saturday, March 21, and announced that food collection efforts will continue in the Crystal City area starting today.” [Press Release]

Photo courtesy Allison Bredbenner

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Like other nearby localities, Arlington has entered the community transmission phase of coronavirus outbreak.

As of noon Monday, the number of known coronavirus cases in Arlington again increased — to 34 cases from 26 cases on Sunday and 17 on Friday, according to the Virginia Dept. of Health. Some of those are suspected cases of community transmission, which cannot be traced back to travel abroad or contact with a person known to be infected.

At the Arlington County Board meeting on Saturday, Arlington County Health Director Dr. Reuben Varghese provided an update on the county’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We have cases in Arlington, as well as in the region… there is now evidence for local transmission, community transmission,” said Varghese. “[These are] cases where you can’t find a known source related to travel… The cases in Georgetown were a known cause, but we now have evidence without being able to find a known source of transmission.”

Varghese said that this was completely expected and the work being done now on social distancing will help reduce the spread.

“With that evidence of community spread in Northern Virginia we want to remind everyone: infectious diseases don’t respect boundaries and all localities should be vigilant in helping to slow the spread of the virus,” Varghese said.

Varghese advised people to wash their hands frequently and to cover their faces when coughing, complimenting someone else in the room mid-speech with having “good technique” as they started to cough.

Statewide in Virginia, there are now 254 known coronavirus cases, including 38 hospitalizations and 6 deaths. Nearly 3,700 people have been tested, according to the state health department. Fairfax County now has the highest number of cases among individual jurisdictions in the Commonwealth: 43.

Meanwhile, the county is scrapping its previous budget.

“We’re doing the best to get a new budget proposal by April 1,” County Manager Mark Schwartz said. “It will be a very small document with increased demands in certain areas and less revenue.”

Schwartz said that, as the county did after the 9/11 terror attacks, all capital projects will be reprioritized to divert resources to essential needs. Budget work sessions have been temporarily suspended.

“We expect occupancy tax and meals tax to be low,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz said that occupancy rates at Arlington hotels are currently around 2-3% with one closing that week.

Image via Arlington County

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While reducing the human toll of the coronavirus outbreak is a top priority, Arlington officials are also trying to determine its impact on the upcoming county budget.

Given that the length and depth of the economic fallout from the outbreak is unknown at this point, county leaders are not sure how exactly it will affect the budget, which has to be approved before the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.

“Right now I don’t know,” said Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey, when asked what changes would be made to County Manager Mark Schwartz’s recommended budget. “I’d tell you something but it probably will change… I haven’t had a day go the way I thought it would go for weeks now.”

Garvey said three things about the budget thus far are true:

  1. “We need a budget by July 1.”
  2. “We don’t know what our revenues will be.”
  3. “We don’t know what our expenses will be.”

“Somehow we need a budget by then,” she said. “Clearly the process of getting there will change… it’s very difficult to create a budget when you don’t know what your revenues will be and what your expenses will be.”

Changes to the process include changes to work sessions and public hearings — one work session was cancelled earlier this week — and perhaps a later adoption date while details are worked out.

On the revenue side, the coronavirus outbreak will likely reduce what the county receives from meals, business and sales taxes, while hardship from the outbreak could prompt County Board members to lower the property tax rate. (Under its advertised tax rate, the rate cannot be raised.)

The county is, however, hoping for additional state and federal aid.

On the expense side, the budget will likely prompt more social safety net spending, among other urgent needs.

Ironically, this year’s budget was originally touted as a “good news budget,” with strong expected tax revenue allowing the county to painlessly tackle a number of priorities, from increases in employee compensation to elimination of library fines.

Now, such decisions will get more difficult.

Garvey said Schwartz has tasked departments with finding areas where current full time positions could be re-tasked and shifted to more urgent needs in the post-outbreak world. Another possibility: delayed openings for the under-construction Lubber Run Community Center and Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center, to save on the expanse of staffing and programming both facilities.

“The world has changed, and it’s about to be very clear how it changed,” Garvey said.

In a phone interview with ARLnow Thursday morning, Garvey urged residents to continue practicing social distancing.

“Stay home as much as you can,” wash your hands frequently, and “if you go out, don’t go near people,” she said. She noted, however, that “having people go out for a walk, a bike ride, is great… being outside and getting exercise is good for you.”

Garvey was critical of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam only setting a 10-person capacity at public gatherings and establishments like restaurants and gyms, rather than — as the county would prefer — closing them to completely to everything but food takeout and delivery. Not only does it not go far enough, she said, but it’s difficult to enforce.

According to Garvey, it takes local governments three consecutive visits of both a police officer and a public health official to be able to shut a non-compliant restaurant down — and police officers and public health personnel are currently needed for higher priorities.

Also, Garvey said, it’s impossible for Arlington County Board meetings to be held in compliance with all laws. There are 10 people, including Board members, county employees and security, needed at County Board meetings, thus reaching the limit for public gatherings. But public access laws require Board meeting to also be open to the public.

“We need good leadership from Richmond and we need it now,” Garvey said. “Can we please, please use common sense. We need the rule of law, yes, but we also need common sense.”

The Board Chair thanked local businesses that have followed the County Board’s lead and closed up shop or gone takeout- and delivery-only.

“I do want to give a heartfelt expression of gratitude to those who have done the responsible thing,” she said. “It’s not easy for them and we very much appreciate it.”

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