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Flags outside county government headquarters in Courthouse (photo courtesy Arlington County)

(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) A printing vendor accidentally mailed tens of thousands of duplicate property tax bills to Arlington property owners, the county said today.

ARLnow started getting reports from readers earlier this week about the rogue mailings.

“We received a duplicate real estate tax bill today and contacted a couple of friends who also don’t have mortgages and they did too,” said one reader. “All of us have already paid and, in any case, the taxes aren’t due until 6/15.”

“Isn’t this a terrible waste of time and postage expense of our tax dollars by the county?” the reader added.

In each case, the readers said they countacted the county, which confirmed that they had in fact paid and the mailings were sent in error.

Arlington County Treasurer Carla de la Pava tells ARLnow that her office is not at fault and taxpayers won’t bear the extra expense, though she apologized for the confusion the letters caused.

The county treasurer’s office is issuing the following statement this afternoon.

The Arlington County Treasurer’s Office discovered yesterday, May 31, 2022, that an error made by our external print vendor resulted in the printing and mailing of approximately 26,000 duplicate letters to our taxpayers.  The vast majority of these duplicate letters were real estate tax bills, and we regret the confusion and inconvenience that this error has caused our customers.

The Treasurer’s Office routinely sends test files to our outside print vendor before major billings like the recent billing for 1st installment real estate taxes.  Although our office followed established procedures, unfortunately our external print vendor did not. A print vendor employee mistakenly printed and mailed letters from the test environment, and Arlington County customers began to receive the letters last weekend.

Arlington County taxpayers will not bear any of the cost of printing and postage resulting from this error. In addition, we will work with our print vendor to improve their internal control procedures to prevent errors like this from occurring in the future.  If you are concerned about a particular bill, please email us at [email protected] or call 703-228-3702.

De la Pava estimated the total cost of the mailing, had the county been on the hook for it, at around $14,000.

A similar incident involving a “significant number” of duplicate tax bills happened in 2016. It was blamed on “a glitch” in sending data to the printing contractor.

“We are currently having conversations with [the contractor] to find out what processes and procedures they have in place, or can put in place, to stop duplicate files from being printed and mailed,” de la Pava told the Sun Gazette at the time.

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An EasyPark device (photo via OTI)

Prolific parkers in Arlington will soon have to ditch their EasyPark devices.

The company that owns the battery-operated parking payment device — a precursor to app-based parking payment services — is ceasing operations in the U.S. and service will end in Arlington on Monday, Feb. 28, according to the County Treasurer’s Office.

“We sincerely regret to tell you that EasyPark has ceased operations in North America and terminated its contract with Arlington County,” the treasurer’s office said in an announcement yesterday (Monday). “This message is to let you know what this change may mean for you, if you continue to use your EasyPark device in the coming weeks.”

Locals can refill their devices in-person at the Treasurer’s Office until Feb. 28, after which time they can still use the device to pay for parking until the balance reaches $0. Refills will not be possible after the last day of this month.

Folks can also bring working devices to the Treasurer’s Office and receive a refund of the remaining balance until Feb. 28. Broken devices cannot be replaced and broken devices with money on them cannot be refunded.

The Treasurer’s Office warned that continuing to use the device after Feb. 28 may complicate contesting a parking ticket. Drivers can no longer rely on a technical support team to verify a proper device for use as proof in a ticket appeal.

Going forward, on-street parking payment options include the ParkMobile app, which launched here in 2014, and traditional parking meters.

Arlington County began offering the battery-operated devices in 2015 as an alternative to paying at a parking meter or with a phone. EasyPark succeeded the iPark devices, which Arlington stopped selling after the manufacturer declared bankruptcy in 2013.

It appears bankruptcy almost came for the company that owns EasyPark USA: On Track Innovations (OTI). The company lost significant revenue during the pandemic and filed for bankruptcy, but those proceedings ended when Nayax — an Israeli platform that provides digital, cashless purchasing options to retailers — acquired OTI for $4.5 million.

The announcement encourages people with questions to call the Treasurer’s Office Customer Service team at (703) 228-3702 or email [email protected].

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Morning Notes

Kitten Rescued from Van — ” Caroline Elpers, a deputy animal control officer with Arlington County, responded to a call from a woman on Aug. 15. The woman said she was walking her dog and she’d heard the mewing of a cat coming from the inside of a van parked on the street. ‘Initially, the call stated that the cat was in the van,’ Elpers said, who arrived on the scene around 10 a.m. ‘Once I got there, it was apparent that the cat was underneath the van, running under and into the engine.'” [Patch]

Pandemic Doesn’t Stop Tax Collection — “Over the past year, staff of the Arlington treasurer’s office has been tasked with collecting $997 million in taxes due on real estate and personal property (both vehicles and business property). To date, more than $995 million of it is in hand. Treasurer Carla de la Pava on Aug. 16 confirmed to the Sun Gazette that the county’s tax-delinquency rate for the past year stood at 0.18 percent, a near-record.” [Sun Gazette]

New Faregates Coming to Local Metro Stations — “Work is also underway to replace the faregates at 13 additional stations, with new faregates being phased in as they are completed and ready for service. Eastern Market and Forest Glen are expected to be completed within the next week. That will be followed by the completion of Friendship Heights, Crystal City, Capitol South, the north entrance of Union Station, Arlington Cemetery, National Airport, and Addison Road in the coming weeks.” [WMATA]

New Pro-People Coalition Launches — “The National Landing Business Improvement District (BID) partnered with local stakeholders today to launch the ‘People Before Cars’ Coalition to unite area organizations around shared priorities to create a safer and more accessible transportation network in National Landing.” [Press Release]

N. Va. Gov’ts Welcome Afghan Refugees — “The Northern Virginia Regional Commission… issued a statement regarding regional refugee resettlement on Tuesday. ‘Citizens of Northern Virginia are following with great concern and compassion the evacuation of Afghan refugees by the brave men and women of our Armed Forces and civilian agencies,’ the statement read. ‘We welcome our new neighbors and wish them much success as they transition to a new life here in the region and across the United States.'” [Prince William Times, Twitter]

N. Va. School System Goes Virtual Only — “Rappahannock County Public Schools on Monday announced that the schools will switch to virtual learning for the remainder of the week while officials work to create a new system to mitigate spread of COVID-19 as the virus has created a flurry of cases within the schools since the academic year began… Officials said a high number of flu cases reported in the schools was also taken into account when deciding the closure.” [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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In March, Arlington County was on-track to set a new record low for tax delinquency rates.

Then, the coronavirus hit.

“As the pandemic unfolded, we got further and further from our goal, which was to be expected,” Treasurer Carla de la Pava told the County Board during its recessed meeting on Tuesday.

Delinquency rates had decreased by almost half since 2014, but COVID-19 erased two years of record-setting lows. The County is currently out nearly $10 million in uncollected tax revenue, de la Pava said.

For every 10,000 tax-paying residents and business, de la Pava had aimed to have only 17 fall behind, but when the collection year ended on Aug. 14, that proportion increased to 22. She told the County Board that next year, she predicts it will be “difficult, but achievable” to keep the rate under 30 delinquent residents and businesses per 10,000.

“We have our work cut out for us,” she said. “We started this collection year with the highest rate of delinquencies since I became treasurer,” or about $14 million.

The “elephant in the room” that contributed the most to the spike is delinquent real-estate taxes, which have never been higher in the County’s history, de la Pava said. Overall, the County is missing more than $5 million in property taxes for homes, apartments, hotels and businesses.

The highest percentage of households that have not paid their property taxes are clustered in the 22207 zip code: the northernmost part of North Arlington that includes the Cherrydale, Country Club Hills and Yorktown neighborhoods.

The highest percentage of businesses that have not paid their property taxes are centered in the 22202 zip code (the Crystal City, Pentagon City and Arlington Ridge neighborhoods) and 22206 (the Shirlington, Fairlington and Long Branch Creek neighborhoods).

Taxes on property used for business are also up dramatically, with number of delinquencies concentrated in the 22202 zip code. The amount owed along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, however, exceeds all other zip codes combined, de la Pava said.

This June, the treasurer’s office put a number of hotels and big businesses on Taxpayer Assistance Program loans so they could pay their taxes over 10 months, from August 2020 to May 2021. This came after her office offered a two-month deferral this spring that mostly benefited hard-hit restaurants and hotels.

John Marshall Bank, which partners with the county on the short-term loans, lowered its rates to make these repayment plans more affordable, she said.

“We prevented almost $1 million in going delinquent through TAP loans from John Marshall Bank,” de la Pava said.

To encourage safe and timely payments this year, de la Pava said her office added a temporary location this September and encouraged people to pay online, resulting in an 11% increase in online profiles.

The County Treasurer said she found another bright spot in vehicle taxes, which reached the second-lowest delinquency rate in Arlington’s history this year. Outreach, payment plans and automatic billing contributed to the lower delinquency, she said.

The Columbia Pike corridor, or the 22204 zip code, has the highest concentration of vehicle delinquencies, amounting to $1.1 million.

The treasurer’s office drafted 400 payment plans for vehicle taxes, saving $600,000 from going delinquent, de la Pava said.

Images via Arlington County

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Arlington County has opened a temporary tax payment location.

As the Oct. 5 deadline approaches for vehicle personal property taxes and the second installment of real estate taxes, the Arlington County Treasurer’s Office on Monday opened a temporary payment location at Thomas Jefferson Community Center (3501 2nd Street S.) to accept payments in person.

The satellite location is in addition to the Treasurer’s Office payment windows on the second floor of county government headquarters (2100 Clarendon Blvd), which is open from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

“In addition to having limited staff at our main office, we will be at Thomas Jefferson Community Center to safety take your payments in person, Sept. 21-25, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.,” the Treasurer’s Office said via email. “Please remember to wear a mask.”

Payments can also be made online via the Customer Assessment and Payment Portal (CAPP), mailed to Arlington County Treasurer at PO Box 1754, Merrifield, VA 22116-1754, or a check can be dropped off at one of two 24-hour drop boxes.

Any person financially impacted by COVID-19 may call the Treasurer’s Office at 703-228-4000 for assistance.

For anyone who moved or sold their vehicle, taxes may still be owed for the months the vehicle was still located in Arlington. Vehicle tax bills — which were mailed in August — should be reviewed for accuracy in this matter, the Treasurer’s Office said.

“If you are waiting for your account to be adjusted, please be sure to avoid a late payment penalty by paying your bill in full by October 5,” the office said. “Any overpayment will be refunded to you once your account has been adjusted.”

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In a bit of relief for hard-hit restaurants and hotels, Arlington County’s Treasurer says tax payments due between now and the end of April can be deferred temporarily.

Treasurer Carla de la Pava said in a statement that her office will not impose penalties and interest on late tax payments, though tax returns are still due. The decision mostly affects meals taxes, paid by restaurants, and hotel taxes, and requires payment by May 31.

More from the Treasurer’s Office:

Carla de la Pava, Treasurer of Arlington County, has determined that late payment penalty and interest will not be imposed on local taxes with a payment due date between March 13 and April 30, 2020, if such taxes are paid in full by May 31, 2020. This decision primarily but not exclusively affects Arlington County Meals, Food, and Beverage Taxes and Transient Occupancy Taxes, which would ordinarily be due March 20 and April 20. Taxpayers should still file the required returns even if they are not paying the tax until a later date. Taxpayers are encouraged to pay their taxes on time if they have the financial means to do so. Any taxes previously paid will not be refunded. Taxpayers should direct questions to [email protected]

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A state organization aimed at helping Virginians identify unclaimed property will set up a booth next week to help locals find previously unknown money.

On Thursday (Oct. 3) from noon to 5 p.m. and on Friday (Oct. 4) from 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m., the Virginia Department of the Treasury’s program VA Money Search is scheduled to set up in the lobby of the county government building at 2100 Clarendon Blvd.

With a name like “vamoneysearch.org” and a mascot of a man in a trench coat, the program would seem a little suspicious, but Stephanie Shea, a spokesperson for the Arlington County Treasurer’s office, said the program is operated by the state government.

“The Treasury is mandated to try to find the rightful owners of money that is unclaimed,” Shea said. “There is no fee for this service, it’s totally free.  We invite everyone to stop by the team’s table in the lobby of 2100 Clarendon Blvd to find money.”

Last year, Shea said the organization found $68,026.68 in one day.

“Last year one County employee found over $3,000,” Shea said. “Money is found from closed bank accounts, insurance policies, wages from an old job, etc.”

A press release from the program said that overall it returned $79 million to Virginia citizens in 2018. According to the release:

Unclaimed Property can be generated in nearly every financial transaction with any company. Property becomes unclaimed when the holder company has not had contact with the owner of the property or funds for a specified time, then the account is considered dormant. Dormant accounts by law must be turned over to the state… Unclaimed Property stays in our database until the rightful owner or heir files a claim.

Photo via VA Money Search/Facebook

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Morning Notes

Arlington Loses Top Economic Development Official — “Christina Winn, one of the lead Arlington officials tasked with luring Amazon to the county, is taking over as Prince William County’s top economic development official.” [Washington Business Journal]

Marymount Prez Wants to Double Enrollment — “Irma Becerra hit the ground running the moment she took over the Marymount University presidency… her chief goal is as straightforward as it is ambitious: Double the school’s size in the next five years.” [Washington Business Journal]

18th Street Headache — “As they wrap up the demolition of the Clark St. bridge over 18th [Street S. in Crystal City], the eastbound side of 18th will be closed Thursday and Friday this week.” [Twitter]

Howell Gets Fall Challenger — “It’s an uphill battle, to be certain, but Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance president Arthur Purves will take on, as a Republican, seven-term incumbent state Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd) in the Nov. 5 election. The district snakes from Howell’s home turf of Reston eastward into portions of Arlington.” [InsideNova]

Arlington Treasurer Leads State Association — “Arlington County Treasurer Carla de la Pava was sworn in as the President of the Treasurers’ Association of Virginia (TAV) at the association’s annual conference in Arlington.” [Press Release]

Boeing’s Space HQ Moving Out of Arlington — “Boeing will move its space headquarters from Arlington, Va., to the Florida Space Coast as it pursues a number of rocket and spacecraft programs, including one that would launch astronauts from U.S. soil for the first time since the space shuttle retired in 2011.” [Washington Post]

Townhomes Proposed for Crystal House Property — “The proposed expansion of the Crystal House apartment complex is getting a little larger, with 21 townhomes now part of plans at the Crystal City property… The company has already filed for permission to add 798 units across four new buildings on the 29.8-acre site.” [Washington Business Journal]

Nearby: Design of Potomac Yard Metro Revealed — “The city of Alexandria, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and Potomac Yard Constructors, the private joint venture picked to build the station, have submitted a design for an upcoming evaluation by the city’s Board of Architectural Review. The station design calls for a stone base, a metal canopy and metal louvers, a glass curtain wall and exo-skeleton system, a standing seam metal roof and roof skylight panels. There will be bathrooms on the eastern side, between a set of elevators and an electrical room.” [Washington Business Journal]

Photo courtesy Celia Slater

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Morning Notes

Ballston Mall LED Screens Nixed — Developer Forest City is, for now, withdrawing a request to install two large, high-definition LED video screens above the main entrance to its still under-construction Ballston Quarter mall. The screens do not comply with Arlington zoning rules. Attorneys for Forest City say they are still hoping that the County Board will eventually amend the zoning ordinance to allow such screens. [Washington Business Journal]

Free ART Bus Rides Thursday — “Think there’s no such thing as a free ride? Not if you take the bus in Arlington, Virginia, and you’re traveling on Sept. 20. Arlington Transit is letting passengers ride free Sept. 20 as a way to celebrate the transit agency’s 20th anniversary.” [WTOP]

Tax Delinquency List — Arlington County Treasurer Carla de la Pava has released her office’s annual list of residents and businesses that have not paid their taxes. The list includes nearly $200,000 in delinquent real estate taxes, $1.3 million in delinquent personal property taxes, $1 million in delinquent business license and property taxes, and more than $500,000 in delinquent meal (restaurant) taxes. [Arlington County]

Celebrating Community and Elders in Nauck — “Celebrating the lives and achievements of the community’s elders was a centerpiece of the 2018 Nauck Civic & Community Pride Day, which brought food, music and fellowship to Drew Model School on Sept. 15. Four community residents who had reached, or were set to reach, the centennial mark – Elizabeth Cole, Novella Cummings, Mary Lockett and Thelma Russell – were honored by the Nauck Civic Association.” [InsideNova]

Critic Praises Shirlington’s Signature — “The Tony Award-winning Signature Theatre — the Arlington troupe known for musicals — shapes up as my favorite D.C. company. I’m not saying Signature is hands-down the best theater in Washington… But Signature showcases a lot of assets, from its singular glam factor to plain old ease of use.” [Washington Post]

Late Night Storms — Thunderstorms that rumbled through Arlington around midnight last night brought a period of frequent lightning and thunder that set off car alarms and awakened some residents from their sleep. [Twitter, Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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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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Morning Notes

Simple Greek Now Open — Fast-casual restaurant chain The Simple Greek has opened its new Rosslyn location in the Colonial Plaza shopping center. A ribbon cutting ceremony yesterday was followed by long lines at lunchtime. [Twitter, Twitter]

WiFi Available in Underground Metro Stations — As of today, free wireless internet service should be available in every underground Metro station. Per yesterday’s announcement from Metro: “Customers can log-in by selecting the ‘Metro-Public’ network in their device’s Wi-Fi settings.” [WMATA]

Signs Up for Sfoglina — “Coming soon” signs are up for the new Rosslyn outpost of the acclaimed Fabio and Maria Trabocchi restaurant Sfoglina Pasta House. The restaurant is located on the street level of the office building at 11oo Wilson Boulevard. [Twitter]

Water Rescue Near Chain Bridge — D.C. police and firefighters rescued two people whose kayak overturned in the Potomac River near Chain Bridge last night. Both were evaluated by medics but “neither have physical injuries,” per DCFEMS. [Twitter, Twitter]

Fox News Coming to Iwo Jima Memorial — On Sunday, Fox News Channel will broadcast a portion of its America’s News Headquarters program (noon-2 p.m.) from the Marine Corps War Memorial near Rosslyn. Elizabeth Prann will co-anchor “ANHQ” from the Memorial, “where the nation will be preparing for the Fourth of July fireworks celebration,” according to a Fox press release.

Arlington Has Millions in Prepaid Taxes — “The Arlington treasurer’s office still has about $8 million sitting untouched in its coffers, waiting to be applied to future tax payments. But that’s less than half the $17.2 million in total prepayments submitted by Arlington taxpayers in the waning days of 2017, hoping to beat changes to federal tax law that made some mortgage-interest payments non-deductible in 2018.” [InsideNova]

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