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Arlington’s Car Decal Requirement Set to End Next Year

Starting next year, Arlington drivers won’t need to display a car decal on their vehicles for the first time in decades.

The County Board voted unanimously yesterday (Tuesday) to end the requirement that owners of vehicles parked in Arlington use a sticker to prove they’ve paid personal property taxes.

The “motor vehicle license fee” associated with the decal, which helps the county pull in about $5 million each year, will remain under the Board’s plan. But starting July 1, 2019, the county will now rely entirely on license plate readers to track whether drivers are up to date on their taxes.

“This is truly the end of an era for Arlington,” County Board Chair Katie Cristol said in a statement. “The decal is going the way of the horse-and-buggy.”

The county first began requiring drivers to display a metal tag on license plates all the way back in 1949, moving to a decal system in 1967. Yet, as other localities across the state have increasingly abandoned similar decals, pressure on the county to follow suit mounted.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Board member John Vihstadt said at the meeting Tuesday. “We’re not getting rid of the fee, it’s important to our tax base and enforcement of motor vehicle regulations and so forth. But this will eliminate the nuisance of having a decal.”

County treasurer Carla de la Pava remains confident that Arlington will be able to maintain its low tax delinquency rate even with this change, though it will also mark the end of her office’s annual design competition for the decal, which featured art from local high school students.

“The decal competition was a great collaboration between art, teens, and local government, and I am sorry to see it end,” de la Pava said in a statement.

File photo

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Morning Notes

More School Renaming Committees on the Way — Though the Washington-Lee controversy gets all the headlines, the School Board will also soon kick off the process of naming two new buildings and renaming two others. Patrick Henry ES will likely draw the most scrutiny. [InsideNova]

Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe Fundraising for de Ferranti — Virginia’s last chief executive will help Democratic County Board hopeful Matt de Ferranti fill his campaign coffers later this month. McAuliffe, a potential 2020 presidential hopeful, joins Attorney General Mark Herring as another statewide politician lending de Ferranti a hand in his bid against John Vihstadt. [Twitter]

County Treasurer Slashes Tax Delinquency Rate Again — Carla de la Pava has hit new highs by ensuring that more taxpayers are keeping up with their payments than ever before, recording the lowest delinquency rate in county history. [InsideNova]

Arlington Centenarians Still Dancing — The county has at least 47 residents who have passed the 100-year mark, and they say they feel as young as ever. [WAMU]

Flickr pool photo via Erinn Shirley

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Vehicle Decal Design Competition Winner Announced

Arlington County’s 2018-2019 vehicle decals will have a drawing of its skyline behind blossoming cherry trees.

At the Arlington County Board’s meeting Tuesday (January 30), Treasurer Carla de la Pava announced that Schuyler Workmaster, a junior at Bishop O’Connell High School, won first place in the annual design competition over three other finalists.

Workmaster, in her third year as a finalist, said she chose to draw the design as she was inspired by the county’s mix of urban and natural settings.

“I chose to do this because it shows both the urban and nature aspect of Arlington,” she said at the meeting before her win was announced. “It just comes together in both pieces, and works together to create beauty. I think it represents Arlington because it’s very diverse, but it comes together to form something beautiful.”

Workmaster’s work was chosen among design finalists from three fellow student competitors: last year’s winner Amy Kohan, a junior at Wakefield High School; Washington-Lee junior Tom Bolles; and Yorktown High School junior Maddy Heinemann. Workmaster will receive a $750 cash prize from the Arlington Community Federal Credit Union and her design will be displayed on approximately 160,000 vehicles starting later this year.

A record 3,619 votes were cast in the competition, a figure de la Pava said is up 11 percent from last year. She said the interest in voting in the contest is huge across the county.

“The part that really tickles me is that it comes from all areas of Arlington,” de la Pava said. “All the nooks and crannies except for [Arlington National Cemetery]… it really represents how widespread the interest is in voting for this decal.”

Students are instructed to produce a design that represents Arlington. This year’s competition was widened to include anything that they felt represented World War I and the county’s participation in the war.

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County Offering Refunds on Tax Prepayments

With uncertainty still swirling about whether taxpayers can deduct property tax prepayments, Arlington County is offering refunds for those who have already made deposits.

County Treasurer Carla de la Pava said the county has already collected around $18.2 million in prepayments from 2,300 accounts, with it still unclear whether taxpayers can deduct those prepayments from their 2017 federal taxes.

And unlike some other jurisdictions, de la Pava said, Arlington is offering refunds on prepayments for those who have changed their minds about paying early. She said around 75 people so far have requested a refund.

“This bill was passed through Congress, and it was very quick and it caused a lot of uncertainty,” she said. “I do not want that uncertainty to penalize Arlington citizens.”

Under the new GOP tax bill, State and Local Tax (SALT) deductions are capped at $10,000. For many Arlington taxpayers with pricey homes, this means they will lose part of their deduction next year and thus potentially pay higher federal taxes.

The Treasurer’s Office issued an advisory on how to request a refund on December 28, the morning after a ruling by the IRS limiting deductions to property taxes assessed in 2017.

Arlington is unable to assess 2018 property taxes until the County Board sets the tax rate in April, and de la Pava said with so many things still up in the air, it was better to give taxpayers options.

“It’s interesting, because what I’ve heard from many people is that they are certainly not going to request a refund right away because I think there’s a sense in the community that… things might change,” she said. “I even had one customer suggest that there might be something brewing in Congress that would make that IRS advisory stale information. There’s a lot of uncertainty still.”

The full advisory issued by the Treasurer’s Office is after the jump.

If you prepaid property taxes and now want to request a refund, please note the following:

  • The refund request must be in writing.
  • The refund will be initiated no sooner than 14 days after payment.
  • A refund could take up to six weeks to process.

Please send emails to [email protected] with “Refund Request” in the subject line. Letters should be mailed to Arlington County Treasurer’s Office, Attn: Refund Request, 2100 Clarendon Blvd., Suite 201, Arlington, VA 22201. The following information should be included if possible.

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number (critical)
  • Email address
  • Type of tax (real estate or vehicle) you prepaid
  • Account number(s) or property address
  • Amount(s) you paid
  • Date you made prepayment(s)
  • How you paid (in person, online, or by mail)

Please note: the Arlington County Treasurer’s Office does not advise on the deductibility of tax prepayments for federal or state taxes.

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County: ‘Consult With a Tax Professional’ About Property Tax Prepayments

(Updated at 1:55 p.m.) Arlington County has collected some $11.5 million in property tax deposits for future years, according to Treasurer Carla de la Pava, but it’s unclear whether taxpayers will be able to deduct those prepayments from their 2017 federal taxes.

Following a ruling by the IRS yesterday, limiting deductions to property taxes assessed in 2017, the county issued a statement Thursday afternoon that made it clear that Arlington is unable to assess 2018 property taxes until the County Board sets the tax rate in April.

The Arlington County Treasurer’s Office and Arlington County have received multiple inquiries based on the statement issued by the Internal Revenue Service on December 27, 2017, concerning deductibility of the property taxes. Neither the Treasurer nor the County staff will be offering individuals advice on tax issues and suggest people consult with a tax professional for any IRS related questions.

Arlington County, through the Department of Real Estate Assessment issues real property tax assessments each year in mid-January. The assessments for Calendar Year 2018 will be completed in mid-January and mailed to residents at that time.

Bills for taxes owed for calendar year 2018 are generated by the Treasurer after a tax rate is set by the County Board in April.

Those bills are due and payable in two installments – by June 15 for the first portion, and October 5 for the second portion.

De la Pava says the tax office has been inundated with tax deposits this week, but the activity has slowed considerably since the IRS ruling.

Taxpayers hoping to save on their taxes before the $10,000 cap on state and local tax (SALT) deductions goes into effect next year have jammed the phone lines and the payment queues of the treasurer’s office. So far, $11.5 million in deposits have been made across more than 1,500 tax accounts, de la Pava said.

That includes some $4.5 million collected over a six hour span Wednesday, before the ruling, but it also includes $1.8 million collected today following the IRS determination.

De la Pava said that her office, which is roughly two-thirds staffed because of the holidays, handled 1,500 phone calls yesterday, while keeping wait times to around 30 minutes.

“It was crazy,” she told ARLnow.com. “They did the best they could.”

De la Pava and other county officials are being careful not to give federal tax advice to residents given the ongoing uncertainty.

“The only thing I can say is that the real estate assessments have not been made and will not be made in 2017,” she said.

Bobby Grohs of RLG Tax Advisors, an Arlington-based CPA firm, told ARLnow.com that the letter of the law suggests that deposits for Arlington property taxes will not be deductible.

“A prepayment of anticipated real property taxes that have not been assessed prior to 2018 is not deductible in 2017,” he said. “Since Arlington does their 2018 assessment in January, prepaying these taxes in 2017 will not permit you to take a deduction on your 2017 tax filings.”

But that has not stopped the tax deposits, which are continuing to flow in, though at a reduced rate. Some taxpayers believe that there will be lawsuits that may end up reversing the IRS ruling, we’re told.

Other D.C. area jurisdictions, meanwhile, are collecting prepayments that should be deductible under the IRS rules. Among them are the City of Falls Church and the District of Columbia, which have already assessed next year’s property taxes.

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Morning Notes

Commonwealth Joe Gets $2.5 Million — Local nitro cold brew coffee purveyor and Pentagon City cafe operator Commonwealth Joe has landed a $2.5 million round of funding. The Arlington-based firm says it plans to use the investment to expand its cold brew business, which includes distributing kegs of the sweet, smooth chilled coffee to offices. [Washington Business Journal]

Local Holocaust Survivor Reunited — An Arlington man was reunited with a Dutch couple that hid him and his sister, who are both Jewish, from the Nazis in 1945. The reunion took place at the U.S. Holocaust Museum and happened thanks to a high school project undertaken by the couple’s grandson. [NBC Washington]

Raise for Arlington County Board Members? — There is renewed discussion of a significant raise for Arlington County Board members, in recognition that their job, rather than being part time as originally envisioned, now involves full-time hours. There are even “whispers” that Board salaries could be nearly doubled, to reach six-figures, according to one report. [InsideNova, InsideNova]

Tax Delinquency Rate Hits Historic Low — Arlington County’s 2017 tax delinquency rate has hit a record low of 0.226 percent, County Treasurer Carla de la Pava announced. That’s the lowest rate in Virginia and the lowest rate ever in Arlington, she said, touting it as “good for the county” and “good for taxpayers.” The news led Del. Patrick Hope to declare de la Pava the “best treasurer in the Commonwealth.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Remembering the Ballston Mall’s Past — First known as Parkington, then Ballston Common Mall, and soon (next year) to be reopened as Ballston Quarter, following extensive renovations, Ballston’s shopping mall has a long history that dates back to the early 1950s. [WETA]

Nearby: Legislation on Confederate Monument — State Sen. Adam Ebbin says he will introduce legislation “to give Alexandria the authority to relocate the Confederate statue in Old Town” Alexandria. “It is past time that we address the impact that lionizing the Confederacy has had on the character of our Commonwealth,” Ebbin said. [Twitter, Twitter]

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County Board Approves W-L Turf Replacement, Late Tax Penalty Reduction

The Arlington County Board marks up the budget, April 16, 2015The Arlington County Board approved measures to reduce the late fee for real estate tax payments, replace the turf field at Washington-Lee High School and grant a $6 million loan for affordable housing at its meeting on Saturday.

The County Board approved the proposal by Treasurer Carla de la Pava to reduce the late fee taxpayers are forced to pay from 10 percent to 5 percent, if taxes are paid within 30 days after the due date. Those who are more than 30 days late paying real estate taxes will continue to pay a 10 percent fee. The county estimates more than 1,000 residents will benefit from the fee reduction.

“Sometimes, people accidentally miss a real estate tax due date but make their payment a few days later — of their own accord and without collection action by the Treasurer. In these cases, I believe a 5 percent penalty is much more appropriate,” de la Pava said in a press release.

The County Board also approved a contract to replace the 10-year-old turf at Washington-Lee High School, spending $670,000 of the $1.6 million contract to install a new synthetic surface at high school. The turf had reached them end of its lifespan, according to county staff, after heavy use from students and the community. Construction on the turf — which will have an extra layer of padding to help prevent concussions — will start in June and is expected to wrap up in August, in time for fall sports.

Additionally on Saturday, the County Board approved a loan from its Affordable Housing Investment Fund to McCormack Baron Salazar, which owns and manages the Clarendon Court Apartments (3814 7th Street N.) near Virginia Square. The loan, for $5.7 million, helps pay MBS for renovating the apartment community and keeping rents at 60 percent of Area Median Income or lower until 2075.

“Ensuring that every transit corridor has a range of housing affordability is a key to Arlington’s long-term sustainability. A first step in achieving this goal is preserving our existing stock of affordable homes,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a release. “The investment in Clarendon Court Apartments, located in the busy R-B corridor, will not only secure the affordability of these homes for 60 years, but make them better places for our neighbors to live.”

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Treasurer Pushes to Reduce Late Fees on Real Estate Taxes

Arlington Treasurer Carla de la PavaThose who don’t pay real estate taxes on time could face lighter penalties this year.

The Arlington County Board is considering a recommendation by Arlington County Treasurer Carla de la Pava to reduce the fee for a real estate bill paid up to 30 days late from 10 percent to 5 percent. Tax bills paid after 30 days would continue to incur a 10 percent penalty.

“The Treasurer … has concluded that as currently implemented a 10 percent penalty for late payment of real estate taxes is unnecessarily harsh for delinquent taxpayers who pay of their own accord,” the county’s staff report reads. “Specifically, it treats those taxpayers who simply forgot about a due date the same as those who refuse to meet their tax obligation without collection action by the Treasurer.”

The average real estate bill last year, which are paid in two installments a year, was $2,752.50, according to the treasurer’s office. If a resident paid on June 17, just two days after the June 15 deadline, he or she would have had to pay a $275.25 late fee. If the County Board approves de la Pava’s recommendation, that penalty would be cut in half, to $137.63.

The treasurer’s office said 1,346 Arlington taxpayers paid their real estate taxes between one and 30 days late in 2014. The 10 percent late fee meant they paid a combined $535,721 in fees alone.

“As the average Arlington County real estate tax bill increases, so does the financial hardship suffered by generally honest property owners by the late payment penalty system currently in effect,” the report says. “Furthermore, it is worth noting that the typical homeowner with a mortgage escrow account is extremely unlikely to ever incur a late payment penalty. Instead, the individuals more likely to miss a real estate tax due date are longtime and older residents who no longer have a mortgage on their home and thus are directly and personally responsible for making their real estate tax installment payments.”

If the late penalty had been reduced in FY 2011, the county would have taken in an average of $235,000 less each year, or just under $1 million. The reduced fee has already been included in the FY 2016 budget, according to county staff.

The motion is on the County Board’s consent agenda on Saturday, which means it is likely to approve it without discussion. If the Board passes the motion, Arlington would be the first jurisdiction in Northern Virginia to not charge the maximum late fee on a real estate tax, according to county staff.

File photo

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Morning Notes

Shadowy jogger in Banneker Park (Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick)

One Candidate for Treasurer Race — Democrat Carla de la Pava, who has served as Arlington County treasurer since July 7, following the retirement of Frank O’Leary, is running unopposed in November. No other candidate filed to run in the special election by the Aug. 15 filing deadline. [InsideNova]

Bracket Room to Host Pregame Shows — The Bracket Room, 1210 N. Garfield Street in Clarendon, will host both the Fox 5 and the 106.7 The Fan Redskins pregame broadcasts this fall, according to a press release. The on-location broadcasts will take place at the sports bar for all 16 regular season games. [PRNewswire]

Cyclists Stopped on I-66 — A pair of bicyclists “dressed like Lance Armstrong” were stopped by Arlington County police on I-66 this morning, according to scanner traffic. It’s unclear why the cyclists were on the interstate. Police directed them to nearby Glebe Road.

Arlington: Great for Soccer Moms? — Arlington is the No. 3 locality in the country for “soccer moms,” according to an analysis that factored in things like the number of soccer clubs and food and transportation affordability. [Nerd Wallet]

Ohio Town Raises Money for Arlington Family — Residents of Chagrin Falls, Ohio are trying to raise $10,000 for the Sachar family of Arlington. Their son, 8-year-old Ashlawn Elementary student Eli Sachar, was struck and killed by a car on July 12 during a visit to Chagrin Falls. [Cleveland.com]

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

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Morning Notes

Sidewalk in Westover

Dems Back Special Election Candidates — At its meeting last night, the Arlington County Democratic Committee formally nominated Carla de la Pava for treasurer and endorsed Nancy Van Doren for School Board. Both candidates are running in special elections to take place at the same time as the November 4 general election. [InsideNova]

Possible Attempt to Resurrect Arlington’s Tourism Tax — Two candidates looking to fill the seat of Del. Bob Brink both said at a recent debate that they would introduce legislation to bring back Arlington’s tourism surtax on hotel bills. Democrat Richard “Rip” Sullivan and Republican David Foster both favor the tax, which had been in place for 21 years until it lapsed in 2011, due to anger over the County Board suing the state and federal governments over high occupancy toll lanes. [InsideNova]

Arlington Man Wins Axe Throwing Competition — Arlington resident Christopher R. Miller won the 2014 Lizzie Borden Axe Throwing competition in Falls Church. He is the brother-in-law of last year’s winner. [Falls Church News-Press]

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Morning Notes

Birthday party in Bluemont Park (Flickr pool by Dennis Dimick)

Att’y General to Consider Streetcar Referendum — Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) will be asked by Del. Patrick Hope (D) to weigh in on whether Arlington County has the legal authority to hold an advisory referendum on the Columbia Pike streetcar project. County officials say they don’t have the authority, and without General Assembly approval can only use a referendum for a general obligation bond issue. [InsideNova]

County Fair Adds Pentagon City Shuttle — The Arlington County Fair this year is adding a new shuttle option. In addition to shuttles from the Arlington Career Center, Ballston Metro and the I-66 parking garage, a shuttle will now run every 30 minutes from the Pentagon City Metro station. The fair runs from Aug. 6-10. [Arlington County Fair]

Falls Church, Arlington Treasurers Are Friends — Carla de la Pava and Jody Acosta, the new interim treasurers of Arlington County and Falls Church, are lifelong friends who grew up together in Alexandria. [Falls Church News-Press]

Rand Paul Makes News at Arlington Event — Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) made some headlines after speaking at the Young Americans for Liberty convention in Rosslyn last night. Paul told the libertarian group that he will no longer appear on MSNBC until the network apologizes for “lousy lies” about his position on the Civil Rights Act. [CNN]

Half-Priced Cheesecake at Cheesecake Factory — The Cheesecake Factory restaurant in Clarendon (and others around the country) are offering half-priced slices of cheesecake for the second day in a row today in honor of National Cheesecake Day. The restaurant chain this week got some unwelcome attention with several “Xtreme Eating awards” for its calorie-laden meals. One slice of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake alone has 1,500 calories. [Cheesecake Factory, Fox News]

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

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Morning Notes

View of the Odyssey building in Courthouse (photo courtesy James Mahony)

Arlington Man’s Death Ruled a Homicide — The death of Arlington resident Michael Hrizuk in D.C.’s Glover Park neighborhood has been ruled a homicide. Hrizuk, 57, died of a “blunt impact head injury” during a reported assault. [Washington Post]

De la Pava Takes Over As Treasurer — After more than 30 years in office, Frank O’Leary stepped down as Arlington County Treasurer Monday. Stepping up to replace him is his chief deputy, Carla de la Pava, who was sworn in to serve as treasurer in a ceremony at county government headquarters. De la Pava is so far unopposed in an upcoming special election that would allow her to continue serving out O’Leary’s term, which runs through Dec. 2015. [InsideNova]

TDM Is the ‘Secret to Arlington’s Success’ — The man who heads Arlington County Commuter Services, the county’s Transportation Demand Management (TDM) agency, says TDM is the “secret to Arlington’s success.” Commuter Services Bureau Chief Chris Hamilton says ACCS programs like BikeArlington, WalkArlington, The Commuter Store and the Car-Free Diet campaign have helped to keep cars off the street even as Arlington’s population has grown. [Mobility Lab]

‘Orange Line Disaster’ at Courthouse — The Orange Line was a “disaster” at the Courthouse Metro station this morning, commuters reported via Twitter. According to various reports, delays started when a train with a door problem offloaded at Courthouse. Passengers crowded onto the platform at the station, which was reportedly un-air-conditioned. At some point, a passenger on a train fainted, prompting that train to hold at the station while medical personnel responded.

Photo courtesy James Mahony

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O’Leary Endorses Deputy for Treasurer in 2015

Chief Deputy Treasurer Carla de la Pava(Updated on 7/7/2014) Arlington County Treasurer Frank O’Leary will not run for reelection next year and is endorsing his chief deputy to succeed him, ARLnow.com has confirmed.

Chief Deputy Treasurer Carla de la Pava, a Democrat, has launched a campaign website in which she lists endorsements from a number of prominent local Democratic officials, including O’Leary, Del. Patrick Hope, Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos and School Board member Noah Simon.

“After six years of excellent service to the Arlington County Treasurer’s Office and Arlington County citizens, Carla de la Pava is well prepared and highly qualified to be Arlington County Treasurer,” O’Leary is quoted as saying. “Experience does count!”

De la Pava can be expected “to continue the firm-but-fair collection practices that have seen the county’s tax-delinqency [sic] rate reach an all-time low,” according to the Sun Gazette, which covered a presentation by de la Pava to the South Arlington Kiwanis Club last month.

O’Leary — who was first elected treasurer in 1983, according to his county biography — was at a conference in Wise County, Va. and not available for comment. He later revealed that he plans to submit his resignation on Monday, July 7.

Photo via LinkedIn

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