Arlington, VA

Four community improvement projects are on this weekend’s Arlington County Board agenda.

The Board is expected to approve the $3 million slate of projects as part of its Neighborhood Conservation program. The somewhat controversial program, previously on the budgetary chopping block, awards funding to modest infrastructure improvement projects requested by local community groups.

The projects set for funding this fall include:

  • Street improvements in the Glencarlyn neighborhood along 4th Street S., from Kensington to Illinois streets ($1.3 million)
  • Pedestrian safety and intersection improvements in the Dominion Hills neighborhood at N. Larrimore Street and 9th Street N. ($1.2 million)
  • Intersection improvements in the Highland Park-Overlee Knolls neighborhood at 14th Street N. and N. Ohio Street ($0.5 million)
  • Landscaping and beautification in the Old Dominion neighborhood at 24th Street N. and Old Dominion Drive ($28,125)

Photo via Google Maps

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Amazon and JBG Smith could one day brush off the dust on Arlington’s long-underused dark fiber network.

The Arlington County Board was scheduled to vote on issuing a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) for the tech giant and developer to discuss the “ConnectArtlington” network during its meeting this Saturday, November 16.

The network currently provides internet service to many county buildings, but was once promised to be a way for local businesses and organizations to also access access high-speed internet at faster speeds and cheaper rates than available from larger commercial providers like Verizon.

“The purpose of this item is to discuss the County’s Fiber Optic Network ‘ConnectArlington’,” said Jack Belcher, the county’s chief information officer, when asked for more information about the County Board item.

“An NDA is necessary as the fiber network and its location is considered critical infrastructure of the County,” he added.

Arlington previously spent $4.1 million building the 10-mile underground cable network. But in February, an ARLnow investigation revealed that almost no businesses were able to license the network due to “flawed” legal requirements.

A spokeswoman for Amazon told ARLnow that the county had included the dark fiber network in its pitch for the company’s second headquarters, and that the upcoming County Board vote was “just part of exploring everything that Arlington had included in the original proposal.”

“We don’t have specifics to share about our ongoing discussions but look forward to learning more about the program,” the company spokeswoman told ARLnow, adding that the NDA will allow the county to “fully brief” Amazon about the capabilities of the network.

However, the exact details for how Amazon and JBG Smith could use the network are murky.

County staffers removed the Amazon item from the agenda after ARLnow called company and county officials for comment yesterday (Tuesday), keeping JBG Smith’s NDA consideration in the agenda document.

“Agenda Item #18 was removed because the County wasn’t able to get feedback yet from the company,” said county spokeswoman Jennifer Smith.

JBG Smith declined to comment when asked for more information about the company’s interest in the network.

And as of today (Wednesday) at 12:30 p.m., the agenda included no staff reports to the Board with more information about the items. Smith said the documents had not been uploaded due to a “technical issue” and were due to be published later today.

As for other organizations looking to “light” the dark fiber network?

“Parties are able to use the fiber network and we are in negotiations with several entities today to also use it,” Belcher said.

Aboveground, Arlington has also approved a proposal for a faster, more advanced 5G cellular network.

Nearby, Alexandria is putting out a bid to build its own dark fiber network as well.

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Arlington may soon be making electric scooters a more or less permanent fixture of the county’s streets and sidewalks.

The County Board will vote on an ordinance change during its meeting this Saturday, November 16 to allow e-scooter companies to operate in Arlington — provided companies fulfill the requirements of a new permitting system starting next year.

The code change would make the pilot program for “micro-mobility devices” a permanent part of Arlington’s transit system after officials originally approved a nine-month pilot program in September 2018 — and extended it ever since.

If Board members approve the proposed code changes on Saturday, it would allow scooter companies in Arlington to continue operating as long as they fulfill the requirements of the new permit application and pay the still-to-be-determined application fees by January 1, 2020. Much like the pilot program, the County Manager’s office would also be allow to cap the number of devices permitted per company, demand equitable deployment, and levy penalties.

The program will also specify some “community and information sharing requirement” according to a staff report to the Board — a similar requirement to the one in Los Angeles that Uber refused to fulfill, and which led city officials to rescind the company’s permits over Uber’s objections.

But moving forward on the scooter program in Arlington isn’t a surprise considering a recent Mobility Lab report encouraging county leaders to make the scooter program permanent.

The recent report drew support from bicycle and pedestrian advocates, and also recommended that the county roll out some changes next year, including:

  • Adding more safe infrastructure like protected bike lanes for scooters and cyclists, as outlined in the county’s recently updated Master Transportation Plan.
  • Addressing parking complaints by creating a map of approved parking spots as well as “no-go” areas.
  • Eliminating barriers to lower-income users by waiving company’s requirements that users need credit cards

Users traveled just over 400,000 miles on scooters in Arlington between Oct. 2018 and June 2019, per a staff report, but some crashes and blocked sidewalks have prompted discussions about age restrictions and designated parking spaces as well as allowing scooters on some trails.

“Staff proposes that it be permissible to use County sidewalks (with limitations), trails, and on-street bicycle facilities for micro-mobility travel, unless specifically signed/marked otherwise,” wrote county staff in a report to the Board for Saturday’s meeting. “One of the first steps in implementation of the new ordinance would be to sign/mark as prohibited for riding those key sidewalk conflict areas identified during the Pilot program.”

The question of whether scooter riders should be allowed on sidewalks has been a topic of debate among some local groups. Staff is recommending allowing sidewalk use in areas of the county where bike lanes are not a viable option.

“Key stakeholder groups including the Pedestrian Advisory Committee, Bicycle Advisory Committee, and Commission on Aging expressed concern that irresponsible sidewalk-riding could be a danger to pedestrians of any age, however they also expressed support for allowing responsible sidewalk-riding where it was not inconsistent with volumes of pedestrians using the facility, and where safe in-road options are not present,” the staff report says.

The Commission on Aging also expressed concerns that “scooter parking would create an obstruction to safe pedestrian circulation, especially near public transit stops and stations.” County staff seeks to address those concerns with restrictions that specify that scooters should be parked upright and off to the side on sidewalks, if not in a designated scooter dock.

Earlier this year, lawmakers in Richmond passed legislation requiring localities to create their own regulations for where users could ride, and park, the devices.

The new ordinance would not, however, preclude future changes to the scooter program.

“Staff commits to a review of the program and consideration of potential refinements to the ordinance at or about one year after ordinance changes go into effect,” a county staff report states.

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The Arlington County Board could advance an extensive redesign of Jennie Dean Park during its meeting this weekend.

The Board is scheduled to vote to add dedicated green space to the Shirlington-area park and approve a $15.5 million construction contact during its meeting this Saturday, November 16.

County staff recommends awarding the contract to D.C.-based construction firm MCN Build, Inc., which was also tapped to work on Fire Station 8, per a report to the Board.

The park was first built in 1949 and features two tennis courts, baseball and softball diamonds, a basketball court, a playground, and a picnic area. After a series of public meetings, the county decided to relocate one of the baseball fields near S. Nelson Street, install a bathroom near Four Mile Run Drive, and build basketball and tennis courts near a WETA production facility.

As part of the renovations, the County Board is now considering removing a stretch of 27th Street S. from S. Nelson Street to Shirlington Road “for incorporation into the expanded Jennie Dean Park” per county staffers. The removal of the section of road is not expected to impede access to the WETA building, which serves as the production studio for PBS Newshour.

In addition to vacating the stretch of road, members will also vote on whether to rezone some “service industry” parcels of land to the north of the park as “public” — a move that could add 1.96 acres to the park which would make room for the planned youth baseball diamond, among other amenities.

The design process for the park proved somewhat controversial, with a local civic association calling one proposed design a “non-starter.” The park sits within the boundaries of the Green Valley neighborhood.

County officials are scheduled to discuss the final renovation designs next Thursday, November 21 from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Charles Drew Community Center, and on Saturday, November 23 from 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m. at the Shirlington Branch Library.

Construction on the project is due to start by early 2020.

Earlier this year, officials asked residents to share their memories of the park with the Brooklyn-based artist selected to design the public art portion of the project.

The park project is part of larger goals to revitalize the Four Mile Run Valley area and emphasize more storm protections for the floodprone area.

Images via Google Maps and Arlington County

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Morning Notes

Dorsey Declares Bankruptcy — “Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey, who was penalized Thursday for failing to disclose a campaign contribution to the Metro board in a timely manner, filed for bankruptcy last month after falling behind on his mortgage and accruing tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt… he attributed his personal financial troubles to a drop in income since he was elected to the five-member Arlington board four years ago.” [Washington Post]

Metro Delays During AM Rush — “Blue/Yellow Line Delay: Single tracking btwn Braddock Rd & National Airport due to a signal problem outside Braddock Rd.” [Twitter]

Arlington Among Best Cities for Frugal Dating — Arlington is No. 17 on a new list of “the best cities in the country for budget-friendly dating.” [SmartAsset]

County Aiming for More Budget Feedback — “This week marks the beginning of the FY 2021 budget season, Arlington County’s process to decide how it will spend County dollars. From now through July 2020, you will have multiple opportunities to provide input and inform decisions about the County’s operating budget and capital budget.” [Arlington County]

County Football Teams May All Make Playoffs — “Depending on the outcome of final regular-season games on Nov. 8, there is a possibility that the Wakefield Warriors, Washington-Liberty Generals and Yorktown Patriots could all end up as district football champions. Wakefield (5-4, 4-0) and Yorktown (8-1, 4-0) are in sole possession of first place currently in the National and Liberty districts, respectively, and are guaranteed at least co-championships if they lose Nov. 8.” [InsideNova]

Yorktown Field Hockey in State Tourney — “It took a while, but when the stakes became the highest, that’s when the Yorktown Patriots started playing their best field hockey of the 2019 campaign, in what has become an historic season for the girls team… By reaching the region final for the first time in program history, Yorktown also earned a Virginia High School League Class 6 state-tournament berth, also for the first time.” [InsideNova]

DJO Runners Win State Title — “After not winning the state championship the past two seasons, the Bishop O’Connell Knights have returned to that throne this fall. The girls high-school cross country team won the 2019 Division I state private-school crown Nov. 7 in Mechanicsville by dominating the field with 46 points.” [InsideNova]

Nearby: Potomac Yard Plan Takes Shape — “Just a few days after submitting plans for the Virginia Tech site near the North Potomac Yard Metro station, JBG Smith has submitted early concept designs for the development that will replace Target and the other Potomac Yard stores.” [ALXnow, Washington Business Journal]

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(Updated at 10:20 p.m.) There were no surprises in Tuesday’s general election in Arlington, as Parisa Dehghani-Tafti was elected Arlington’s new prosecutor and all Democratic incumbents won new terms.

The Commonwealth’s Attorney race saw an elevated level of write-in votes — 10% of the overall vote — but the result was never in doubt as Tafti received 90% of the vote. She will take office as the top prosecutor for Arlington and Falls Church starting in January.

Tafti ran a progressive campaign centered on criminal justice reform during a contentious and expensive primary. She ran unopposed in the general election after beating incumbent prosecutor Theo Stamos in a surprising upset in the primary, with 52% of the vote to Stamos’ 48%.

“It was really surreal,” Tafti told ARLnow of her win, after the final precinct results came in.

The incoming prosecutor added that she was “lucky” she had time between the June primary and the November election to start work on her transition. Tafti she’s looking forward to rolling out reforms come January — which one expert has said is the most aggressive policy transition for the office in living memory.

“I’m really excited to get a restorative justice program started,” she told ARLnow.

Elsewhere on the ballot, Arlington County Board incumbents Katie Cristol (D) and Christian Dorsey (D) defeated independent candidates Audrey Clement and Arron O’Dell with 40% and 38% of the vote, respectively. Clement’s 13% and O’Dell’s 7% compares to the 10% Clement and 19% Republican Mike McMenamin received in 2015, when Cristol and Dorsey were first elected.

In contested General Assembly races in Arlington, state Sen. Janet Howell, who ran unopposed in the primary, won out over Republican candidate Arthur Purves, 73% to 27%. Del. Alfonso Lopez defeated independent challenger Terry Modglin, 83% to 16%.

Other Democratic candidates won bids for re-election tonight after running uncontested races:

  • Del. Patrick Hope
  • Del. Mark Levine
  • Del. Rip Sullivan
  • State Sen. Barbara Favola
  • Sheriff Beth Arthur
  • Commissioner of Revenue Ingrid Morroy
  • Treasurer Carla de la Pava
  • School Board member Reid Goldstein

Acknowledging that most of its candidates were not facing strong challengers, the Arlington Democratic party has instead focused on supporting other Virginia progressives they hoped could flip the GOP-controlled state House and Senate. As of 10 p.m., the Associated Press projected that Democrats would, in fact, win control of both.

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Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey (Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

Last week, we asked the four candidates seeking a seat on the Arlington County Board to write a 750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the Nov. 5 general election.

Here is the unedited response from the Arlington County Board Chair and Democratic incumbent Christian Dorsey.

At a Glance

Since being elected in 2015, I have been an effective leader for Arlington and a recognized leader on transit, housing and other issues in the National Capital region.

Arlington

  • County Board Chair in 2019
  • County Board Vice Chair in 2018

The Region

  • Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) Board Vice Chair
  • COG Smart Region Task Force Chair
  • National Association of Regional Councils Board Member

I have influenced the Council of Governments to adopt Housing Affordability and Equity as regional priorities.

Transit

  • WMATA (Metro) Principal Board Member
  • Northern Virginia Transportation Commissioner
  • Transportation Planning Board Member (2018)

I am the first WMATA Board Member chosen to represent all Northern Virginia Metro jurisdictions.

Four years ago, I promised progressive, principled and inclusive leadership. I seek your support for reelection with the confidence that I have delivered on that promise.

At that time, Arlington’s economic engine was stalled, and high commercial vacancy rates created significant budget pressures and shifted a larger share of tax responsibility on residential taxpayers.The rate has since fallen to 16.6% from over 21% and is poised to move even lower.

I have worked to control costs of our capital projects, and our operating budgets now grow less than the regional average. This has allowed us, even during times of fiscal stress, to invest in our community and in our people.

I am proud to have created a consumer protection office that helps our residents and businesses fight back against fraud and unfair business practices. And, Arlington was the first Northern Virginia jurisdiction to fund legal services to immigrants threatened by the Trump administration’s policies.

To address our most persistent policy challenge, I am proud that during my tenure we have preserved and improved Arlington’s stock of existing affordable units, and that among the many hundreds of units approved over the last four years, several hundred will be within walking distance of Metrorail. We have also identified areas that require a distinct focus like the approved development to serve the needs of our military veterans.

I was honored to be the first individual selected by other Northern Virginia jurisdictions to represent all our interests as a voting member on the WMATA Board. Helping Metro along the path to being safe, reliable, and useful has been critical in meeting our comprehensive goals.

I am proud of the progress we have made, but I am by no means satisfied. My passion for guiding Arlington to become even stronger remains. This year, I introduced equity as a lens through which decisions are to be made. Arlington should not continue, unwittingly, through systemic discrimination, to negatively influence the outcomes of its residents based on their social characteristics.

Arlington, as part of an increasingly interconnected region, cannot pursue policy and investments in a vacuum if we are to achieve the best possible outcomes. I have earned the trust of our neighbors in leading on coordinated policy approaches to transportation and housing, while ensuring that anticipated economic growth is equitable and inclusive.

Under my leadership, in conjunction with Mayor Justin Wilson, Arlington and the City of Alexandria have developed principles to guide a coordinated effort to reduce the involuntary displacement of vulnerable residents and businesses in our communities and to connect traditionally marginalized groups to business and employment opportunities resulting from new investment.

As we were reminded this summer, no greater imperative exists than making Arlington more resilient in the face of climate change. Our immediate focus should be to accelerate investments in stormwater mitigation projects and to develop land use policies that induce infill redevelopment with more pervious surfaces and less intensive water runoff.  For the long term, our recently adopted Community Energy Plan provides a blueprint for Arlington to achieve a carbon-free future.

I am confident that my experience, leadership, and willingness to implement innovative solutions over these four years will help Arlingtonians successfully persevere through our immediate and long-term challenges. And, together, we will make substantial progress toward our shared vision of a community that is climate-resilient, environmentally and economically sustainable, and with suitable housing affordable to all earners. And together, we can work to see each person has the tools and the opportunity to thrive.

I have been humbled by the opportunity to serve and am grateful to engage in the practice of public service. I hope to earn your support and trust with one of your two votes for Arlington County Board.

www.christiandorsey.org 

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Independent County Board candidate Arron O'Dell (Image courtesy of Arron O'Dell)

Last week, we asked the four candidates seeking a seat on the Arlington County Board to write a 750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the Nov. 5 general election.

Here is the unedited response from independent incumbent County Board candidate Arron O’Dell.

A vote for O’Dell is a vote to keep Arlington, Arlington. I will fight to preserve single-family neighborhoods and push for zoning and building code changes to reduce the number of teardowns, and ensure new construction meets or exceeds our goals for a greener and more sustainable county. I will work to direct new housing to existing commercial areas where asphalt can be replaced by taller structures surrounded by green spaces. Adding people to key locations will allow more frequent buses and shuttles to transport people without cars to help Arlington reach its carbon neutral goals.

I want to see workforce housing for teachers and employees included in new county construction projects, because the people that work for Arlington should be able to afford to live here too.

I will look for ways to use our tax dollars better. We spend millions of dollars building and upgrading parks and playgrounds that are good, while spending nothing to encourage and remind people about the spaces that are already there. For less than the cost of one park upgrade, we could have events year round reminding us to visit the under-utilized spaces around the county. Markets, live music, food contest, marshmallow roasts, etc. would cost next to nothing and would bring back a sense of community that has been slowly disappearing.

I want to see better usage of libraries by introducing cafes and special event nights. Why do we not have more local writer meet and greets or book signings?

Did you know that Arlington rents office buildings at Court House? Unless the county government is planning on leaving Arlington, this is an obvious situation that must be addressed before the lease is up for renewal again. I would ask that unspent funds be set aside for the county to buy a permanent home.

If I am elected, unlike my opponents, I will make the county board my primary job. I will go and spend time in the neighborhoods, listening and learning from you. I care about Arlington ,and my only agenda is to keep it a place we can all enjoy. As an independent, I can not only vote against the rest of the board when it is the right thing to do, but I can speak up and speak out when they start talking about the next trolley before money is spent and the plans start getting drawn up.

As one fifth of the board I don’t have to be right, I just need to let you know when they are wrong.

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Last week, we asked the four candidates seeking a seat on the Arlington County Board to write a 750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the Nov. 5 general election. 

Here is the unedited response from independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement.

I’m Audrey Clement, Ph.D., Independent candidate for Arlington County Board — a 15-year Westover resident, long-time civic activist, and member of the Transportation Commission. Why am I running? Because my opponents indulge in constant doublespeak.

Katie and Christian say they want to preserve trees. Yet in 2018 they allowed a developer to chop down a 75-year-old state champion Dawn Redwood near a Potomac watershed in North Arlington, replacing it with a McMansion in contravention of the Chesapeake Bay Ordinance.

On September 24, they approved a deal to cede a VDOT acquired parcel of land at the Rosslyn Holiday Inn site to a private developer contrary to a prior pledge to preserve it as parkland.

My opponents claim to support affordable housing. Yet, they’ve permitted dozens of market-rate garden apartments in Westover Village to be razed, replacing them with luxury townhouses, tree denuded lots and flooded streets.

True. County Board approved a deal to purchase and renovate some of the Westover properties as committed affordable units, but at the expense of half the existing tenants, who were thrown out because they weren’t income qualified.

For over 3 years, Katie and Christian have been sitting on a citizen petition to preserve the remaining buildings as historic, preempting a legally required public hearing on the matter.

Katie and Christian say they can provide more affordable housing by upzoning single family neighborhoods. This is an illusion. When North Arlington is upzoned, there will be 2 to 4 new town homes priced a $1 million each for every single family tear down.

At a recent candidate forum, Christian Dorsey refused to recuse himself from union business on the WMATA Board even though unions contributed the bulk of his campaign funds this year–$10,000 alone from the Amalgamated Transit Union.

Christian says he doesn’t have a conflict of interest in accepting union money as a WMATA Board member, because WMATA doesn’t deal with union matters. Yet WMATA Board minutes indicate that it has approved 4 union contracts since September, 2018.

If you’re tired of Board member’s doublespeak, it’s time for a change. If elected, I will do what I say and say what I mean. I will also:

  • Say NO to tax-rate increases and pay grabs by County Board
  • Insist that developers pay their fair share for public infrastructure;
  • Develop a flood prevention and mitigation program;
  • Install renewable energy on County-owned buildings; and
  • Provide a voice for all taxpayers on County Board
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Last week, we asked the four candidates seeking a seat on the Arlington County Board to write a 750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the Nov. 5 general election.

Here is the unedited response from Democratic incumbent County Board member Katie Cristol.

As you head to the polls this upcoming Tuesday, I ask that you consider casting one of your two votes to return me to the Arlington County Board. Over the past four years, I’ve sought to collaborate with residents and regional partners to find and implement smart, balanced solutions to hard problems and to position this community to take advantage of the opportunities ahead.

Together, we’ve made real progress for Arlingtonians:

  • We adopted a comprehensive strategy to address child-care accessibility in Arlington that’s working: My colleagues and I approved hundreds more quality spots in the first year of the strategy, and within just a couple of months of new ordinance changes taking effect this July, nearly three dozen providers had submitted proposals to expand.
  • We’ve made critical progress on our high rate of commercial vacancy with new and renewed office tenants. Arlington has made international headlines with Amazon, but we also welcomed tech start-ups, national nonprofits and renewable energy companies to fill or redevelop our empty office buildings.
  • We’ve added over a thousand new committed affordable homes for our lower- and moderate-income neighbors, acted to preserve garden apartments, and expanded opportunities for new housing types. As a result, there are now more homes affordable to our neighbors making less than 60% of area median income than there were four years ago – even at a time of increasing rents.
  • We’ve tackled what looked impossible for our regional transit system. As a leader in multiple regional transit bodies, I’m proud to have been part of the coalition that achieved the extraordinary milestone of dedicated capital funding for Metro: a first in the system’s many-decades history.

We’ve made Arlington a more compassionate, effective place for those who need support: creating a legal services fund for our immigrant neighbors – the first in Virginia – and expanding services for survivors of sexual violence, including a comprehensive medical, counseling and justice response.

Importantly, I’ve endeavored to achieve these and other breakthroughs for our community while exercising good fiscal stewardship. I’ve supported needed capital projects in the County, while significantly reducing their costs. We’ve reduced use permit conditions and duplicative community processes to help Schools keep their projects on time and on budget. During my chairmanship last year, the Board held the tax rate flat, though it meant difficult program cuts, to avoid shifting the burden of lost commercial revenues to residential payers.

And I’m running for reelection because we have many more big things to do, together. If I earn your support on November 5th, I will prioritize:

  • Increasing moderately-sized ownership housing in neighborhoods throughout the County, through the study and legalization of alternative forms.
  • Planning for community infrastructure, specifically:
    • A long-term plan for siting future schools facilities beyond the ten-year horizon of our Capital Improvement Plan; and
    • Collaborating with our Northern Virginia partners to realize a truly interconnected transit system across the greater DC region.
  • Protecting our global and local environment by aggressively implementing public and private efforts in our updated Community Energy Plan; and prioritizing “Biophilic Cities” principles and practices for Arlington to prioritize natural spaces in our commercial corridors.

To learn more about these and other priorities ahead of the election, please visit www.katiecristol.com/issues. Thank you for the opportunity to serve this extraordinary community, and for your consideration on Tuesday, November 5th.

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Arlington County has closed the 2019 fiscal year within its $1.27 billion budget, and thanks in part to cost savings and higher-than-expected tax revenue the county has $23.2 million left over.

During the Arlington County Board meeting on Tuesday, County Manager Mark Schwartz recommended allocating the leftover funds across three categories:

Reserving $14.4 million for unallocated funds would give “the county some flexibility when weighing its future budget choices for FY 2021,” according to county budget director Richard Stephenson.

Staff said $6.8 million Schwartz recommended for the county’s reserve fund is important for maintaining Arlington’s high bond ratings. If approved, these funds would increase the county’s contributions to its reserve from 0.5% to 1% of the total operating budget.

“Bond ratings serve as an indicator of the county’s resiliency and ability to weather economic downturn and unusual catastrophic events,” said Maria Meredith, director of Arlington’s Department of Management and Finance, during Tuesday’s meeting.

The remaining $2 million for the County Manager Operating Contingent would be for addressing “unforeseen needs that arise during the fiscal year, such as contractual increases, repairs, or special projects,” said Stephenson.

“We’ve had this contingent set aside for awhile,” said Stephenson after the meeting. “For example, when Katie Cristol came on as Board Chair and wanted to start the Child Care Initiative, the money was there to do those things — without needing the redistribute the county budget.”

The $23.2 million carryover represents 2.7% of the county’s total FY 2019 budget, a slight increase from last year’s 2.6% carryover.

Until recent budget years, the Board would usually allocate its close-out surplus funds to a variety of initiatives, a practice that prompted some bipartisan criticism. Last year the Board mostly rolled over its leftover funds to the next year’s budget, while also adding to its reserves.

In January, the county introduced its first financial transparency tool, dubbed “Arlington Wallet,” which aims to help Arlingtonians get a clearer look at how officials are spending money each year.

“We’ve done a much better job explaining the sources of these funds, and we’re getting much more responsible in [their] proposed uses,” said Dorsey.

County Board members added they welcome public comment on the issue throughout the month before they are scheduled to take action during their next meeting on Saturday, November 16.

A $1.4 billion FY 2020 budget was approved earlier this year. The Board will present forecasts for the next budget, FY 2021, during the November meeting.

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