The Arlington County Police Department is planning a “strategic restructuring” as a wave of retirements and departures leaves significant gaps in its staffing.
Services could be reduced as the department’s functional strength falls to a projected 50 officers below its authorized force of 370, according to an internal memo sent by police chief M. Jay Farr and obtained by ARLnow.com.
The Arlington Police Beneficiary Association, an employee organization representing Arlington officers that is advocating for higher police compensation in the county’s current budget process, said the “historic understaffing” is due to “sub-par pay.”
— Arlington Police Beneficiary Association (@ArlPoliceAssoc) February 21, 2018
— Arlington Police Beneficiary Association (@ArlPoliceAssoc) February 24, 2018
In the past 4 1/2 years, as ACPD has been trying to hire additional officers, the Department is actually DOWN a total of 12 officers. You can't recruit/retain high-quality officers with sub-par pay. #ACPD #ACFD
— Arlington Police Beneficiary Association (@ArlPoliceAssoc) February 22, 2018
Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz’s proposed budget includes a 2.5 percent pay raise for rank-and-file officers, on top of pay hikes for all county employees. The raise does not apply to the department’s command staff. The County Board voted over the weekend against a property tax rate increase, meaning that any additional money for the department beyond Schwartz’s recommendation will likely result in reductions elsewhere in the budget.
The police department is actively recruiting to try to fill staffing holes, but faces competition from other D.C. area local police departments as well as federal law enforcement agencies that often have higher levels of pay. Asked about the numbers, ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage said the total staffing level at the department is a bit higher than the functional staffing level.
“The Arlington County Police Department has an authorized staffing of 370 officers and a current strength of 346 officers,” she told ARLnow.com. “Our current strength includes recruits currently at the academy as well as officers on light duty so our functional staffing is a little lower.”
A table showing retirements and non-retirement departures from the police department, as provided by a county spokeswoman, shows a sharp uptick in 2017.
In a statement, Savage said the planned restructuring will “maximize our available resources.”
Our goals and objectives as a department have not changed, nor has our commitment to providing professional law enforcement services to the residents, visitors and businesses of Arlington County. However, our methods of achieving these goals must adapt to our current staffing challenges. To maximize our available resources, we will be completing a strategic restructuring of the police department. This will be accomplished by our command staff collaborating with the entirety of the police department and devising a staffing plan jointly. Our staffing and structure will focus on prioritizing core services and ensuring the services we are able to provide are effective and efficient. The ultimate goal is to design a police department reflective of our current staffing levels, limit the workload strain on officers by focusing on core services and promote a balanced work/life atmosphere. Our plan will also be forward looking to support growth as staffing improves. It is anticipated that the restructuring will be complete by late spring and additional information will be available at that time.
“Great work happens throughout this agency on a daily basis and this I am confident this will continue despite our current staffing challenges,” Chief Farr said in a statement issued to ARLnow.com. “The strategic restructure will provide us with an opportunity to maximize our resources by building a police department reflective of our current staffing levels while supporting our mission to reduce the incidence of crime and improve the quality of life in Arlington County.”
In the memo, below, Farr says the police department will be reevaluating its ability to provide support for special events in the county as part of the restructuring process.
The Arlington County Fire Department, meanwhile, is facing similar pressures. Fire department personnel are slated to receive an extra 4 percent bump in pay over the standard county employee raise in Schwartz’s budget, but the Arlington Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association says even that might not be enough to fill gaps in staffing.
— IAFF Local 2800 (@IAFF2800) February 21, 2018
With Fairfax's 4.5% market adjustment, #ACFD will be 17.5% behind. How can Arlington County firefighters not feel devalued?
We are not asking to be at the top…just asking for comparable pay for public safety. @ARLnowDOTcom
— IAFF Local 2800 (@IAFF2800) February 22, 2018
The full memo about restructuring from Chief Farr, after the jump.
Those are a few of the relatively small cuts that add up to enough savingsin County Manager Mark Schwartz’s new proposed budget to bridge Arlington’s $20 million budget gap.
The proposed $1.27 billion budget, which is being presented to the County Board today (Thursday), keeps the county’s property tax rate steady — at $0.993 per $100 in assessed value, per the County Board’s earlier guidance — while generating some new revenue through slightly higher utility taxes and additional paid parking hours, rates and fines, among other measures. It includes $775.9 million for the county’s operating budget and $498 million for schools.
Schwartz says his budget cuts 50 county programs and eliminates 48 jobs, including 29 currently filled positions. It includes $8.4 million in spending reductions, $6.6 million in fee and tax increases and $5.5 million in “funding realignments.”
The cuts are necessary, in part, due to budget pressures from Metro and the need to raise employee salaries, particularly in the police and fire departments, to remain competitive with nearby jurisdictions. Arlington’s fast-rising home values, which have helped the county keep up with rising expenses, were offset this year falling commercial property values caused by higher office vacancy rates.
Among the ways the proposed budget increases county revenues:
- Commercial utility taxes increased by 5%
- Residential utility tax increased to $3/month per utility (revenue earmarked for schools and the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund, which is proposed at $13.7 million, matching last year’s AHIF proposal)
- Parking rates increased by $0.25/hour
- Parking meter hours extended to 8 p.m.
- Parking fines increased from $35 to $40
- Household Solid Waste fee up $2/year
Among the proposed cuts and “realignments:”
- The Citizen printed newsletter, sent to all county residents ($82,000/year)
- Lee Highway planning process scaled back ($500,000)
- ART routes 54 and 92 eliminated ($350,000/year)
- Snow blower loaner program eliminated ($30,000/year)
- Free community paper shred events eliminated ($20,000/year)
- Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy residential rebate program cut ($555,000)
- Poet laureate eliminated along with other humanities programs ($77,000)
- Long Bridge Park Fourth of July event entertainment eliminated ($50,000)
- County window washing reduced from twice to once per year ($48,000)
- In-house pharmacy and lab services cut from Dept. of Human Services ($625,000)
- Reduction in DHS employment services staffing ($825,000)
- Eliminate the Office of Community Health in the Dept. of Parks and Recreation ($483,000)
- Eliminate a youth boxing program ($85,000)
- Eliminate a parks volunteer office ($197,000)
- Reduce money earmarked for Crystal City infrastructure, originally intended for the streetcar project, as generated via Tax Increment Financing (about $1 million)
- Reduce the parks department vehicle fleet ($52,000)
- Cut county funding for Arlington Independent Media by 20 percent ($91,000)
- Eliminate the county cable administrator, who receives complaints about cable service from residents ($181,000)
The budget includes raises for many county employees, and even higher raises for most public safety personnel. Police officers, from the rank of sergeant on down, will see an additional 2.5 percent increase in pay, while firefighters will get an extra 4 percent bump over other county employees. Schwartz acknowledged that the departments have been having trouble filling open positions due to competition from other jurisdictions.
Schwartz said he and the county’s economic development office are determined to reduce Arlington’s office vacancy rate, which is back to nearly 20 percent after ticking down a bit from its previous high water mark. Schwartz expects office vacancies will put pressure on the budget for the next several years.
“It remains my primary focus to work on that vacancy rate, to get it down,” he said in a budget briefing with reporters. “We need to work through this problem. We have a lot of economic projects that are coming into the county, but this is the underlying problem that is going to challenge us in coming years.”
The Arlington County Board will advertise a property tax rate on Saturday, setting a ceiling on what the rate may go up to, and will hold various budget work sessions and hearings between now and final adoption on April 21.
Highway Renaming Bill Fails — A bill from state Sen. Barbara Favola that would have allowed Arlington to rename Jefferson Davis Highway in the county failed to get out of committee on a 7-6 party line vote. The county will likely have to wait until next year’s legislative session to try again to get a bill passed. [InsideNova]
Snagajob Heading Toward IPO — “Arlington job management company Snagajob aims to raise up to $30 million, part of a strategy to reach $100 million in revenue this year to prepare the fast-growing company for a future initial public offering.” [Washington Business Journal]
County Releases Annual Report — Arlington County recently released its annual report for 2017. County Manager Mark Schwartz wrote in the report, despite an expected budget gap: “Overall, I am optimistic about our future… with the leadership of the County Board and participation of our residents, we will continue to provide the quality programs and services that our residents have come to expect.” [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
The county’s Bicycle Advisory Committee has been revamped for the new year by County Manager Mark Schwartz, who has installed a new member as chair.
In a letter dated December 27, 2017, Schwartz told the group he wanted to make the group “more fully representative” of the biking community, and have more civic and citizen associations represented on the 18-person committee. Currently, Schwartz said, less than five of those groups are represented.
And he said that starting this month, the eight members that have “rarely or never attended” meetings would be removed from the committee. The BAC provides advice on issues that affect cycling in Arlington.
Schwartz also appointed Edgar Gil Rico, a member of the Washington Area Bicyclists Association and the county’s Master Transportation Planning Bicycle Element Working Group and an instructor with the League of American Bicyclists, as chair.
“I would like to begin 2018 with a renewed spirit by re-establishing the [Bicycle Advisory Committee] into a committee that is more fully representative of the current Arlington cyclist community; to accomplish this we need to engage citizens from our collective populations who have not been previously represented,” Schwartz wrote.
But Schwartz’s decision appears to be unpopular in some quarters. One anonymous tipster wrote that it caught the current members by surprise.
“The group was blindsided by the letter, and one long-standing member has resigned, apparently in protest,” the tipster wrote.
Former BAC chair Gillian Burgess confirmed the letter, and said she was “as surprised by the County Manager’s email as the rest of the BAC.” Burgess declined to comment further, but confirmed that one “longstanding member did resign and his expertise and experience will be missed.”
Chris Slatt, chair of the county’s Transportation Commission, said Randy Swart was the member to resign. Swartz was described in a 2007 article as a “bike safety crusader.”
Slatt criticized the decision, saying that committee members have been “left in limbo” as to whether they are still members, or when the next meeting will be. Burgess and Slatt said they had not been consulted on the decision.
“Expanding the diversity and representation of the BAC is a worthy goal, but this seems like an ill-considered and rude way to do it — especially right in the middle of the process to update the bike plan,” Slatt said. “As chair of the Transportation Commission I have worked with my board liaison over the years to to try ensure a diverse set of viewpoints on [the commission] — geographically, demographically and even trying to get a mix of homeowners and renters.”
“It could be done, over time, as a partnership between the chair and the Manager through new appointments without having to tell existing members that their service is no longer wanted.”
Schwartz’s full letter to the group is after the jump.
At the Arlington County Board’s meeting yesterday (Tuesday), Schwartz projected revenue will grow by 2.9 percent in FY 2019, but the county’s expenditures will grow by 4 percent. That would result in a funding gap of between $10 million and $13 million.
The funding gap assumes the current real estate tax rate of $1.006 per $100 of assessed value will remain the same. County staff is also projecting “modest growth” in assessed property values.
The projections are only for county government, and do not include revenues and expenditures for Arlington Public Schools. The forecast largely keeps the county’s operations and services budget the same, with the exception of expansions in transit service as laid out in the Board-adopted Transit Development Plan.
“This is a preliminary projection — it’s still early in the budget-building process,” Schwartz said in a statement. “We have additional information that will come in the next few months — including actuarial reports for our pension and retiree healthcare, state budget proposals as well as Metro’s updated financial forecast.”
Through November 22, residents can share feedback online about the FY 2019 budget, in addition to the series of public roundtables that end this week.
The county is also seeking feedback on Schwartz’s plan to spend the $11.1 million surplus from this past year’s budget between five “near-term needs,” including affordable housing, facilities studies, public safety employee compensation, a fund for “unforeseen needs” and a security system upgrade at the county’s Justice Center.
Residents can email [email protected] with comments on the plan. Those comments will then be compiled and shared with the County Board before its November meeting, where members will vote on close-out spending.
County staff said $11.1 million is left over, 1.4 percent of the county’s FY 2017 General Fund budget, excluding money appropriated to Arlington Public Schools.
The county collected just over $1.022 billion in revenue from property, business, sales taxes and other sources, having projected in April it would collect just over $1.004 billion. That is 1.8 percent more than projected.
“It is the lowest as a percent of total budget in recent years; in FY 2016, available funds totaled $17.8 million, or 2.4 percent, and in FY 2015 available funds totaled $21.8 million,” staff wrote. “This reflects diligent focus on executing the adopted FY 2017 budget.”
Schwartz is recommending the Arlington County Board use the leftover funds in the following ways:
- Affordable Housing Investment Fund: $5.2 million in one-time funding to be set aside for the FY 2019 budget.
- Critical Life Safety Needs: $2 million for unanticipated security system upgrades to the county’s Justice Center in Courthouse.
- Employee Compensation: $1.75 million to reflect changes in federal law on several position classes in public safety.
- County Manager Operating Contingent: $1.25 million to address “unforeseen needs that arise during the fiscal year without reprioritizing or cutting other programs.”
- Facility Studies: $900,000 to primarily fund additional site analysis at the Buck and Carlin Springs sites, as directed by the Board.
“As was started with housing grants as part of the FY 2018 budget, it is important to move to a higher level of ongoing funding for AHIF in the future,” staff wrote. “This transition to a higher amount could take several years, and the transition can be eased with reliance on available one-time funding.”
Certain community members and some County Board candidates have criticized the closeout practice in Arlington, and instead suggested the extra money should be given back to residents and businesses as tax relief, or at least applied to the next year’s budget.
The County Board will consider its options at its recessed meeting tomorrow (October 24), although numbers are preliminary until the county’s independent auditors complete their work at the end of the month.
Numerous Arlington residents spoke out last night against the County Manager’s “optional” proposed cuts to lessen a planned tax increase.
The County Board’s public hearing Tuesday saw opposition to suggested cuts to the Lee Highway Planning Initiative, snow removal from trails and the Glencarlyn Library among other programs.
County Manager Mark Schwartz proposed a $1.2 billion budget for FY 2018 that includes a tax increase of 2 cents per $100 of assessed value. One cent apiece would go towards Arlington Public Schools and Metro’s increased funding needs.
After direction from County Board members, Schwartz produced a version that would only have a 1-cent increase and cuts elsewhere to make up the difference.
But the suggested cut to funding Lee Highway planning — which would shelve the project until further notice — brought strong opposition from residents and business owners. Under the $500,000 budget cut, the Lee Highway Alliance, a grassroots partnership that looks to improve the quality of life along the corridor, would lose all $60,000 of its county funding, according to speakers.
“The Lee Highway Alliance is the Arlington way: it’s a grassroots effort that sprung up as we realized the need for planning in this corridor,” said Karen Kumm Morris, a representative of the Rock Spring Civic Association.
“A good idea is meaningless without the courage to act,” agreed Sandi Chesrown, an executive board member on the Waverly Hills Civic Association.
Also coming under fire was the plan to cut the Glencarlyn Branch Library’s days of operation from six to two, but it brought one of the two-hour hearing’s lighter moments.
Jeffrey Liteman, representing the Glencarlyn Civic Association, first unfurled a 20-foot petition signed in opposition to the planned cuts. He then sang and played guitar in support of the library, backed by other attendees holding signs behind him.
“It’s the heart of the community, two days are not enough,” he sang.
Members of the county’s Community Services Board advocated for various budget requests, including new case managers for those with developmental disabilities, six placements in a mental health group home and a $75,000 study to determine services for young adults on the autism spectrum.
Among the other topics discussed Tuesday night:
- Arlington Public Schools and the need to fill the approximately $13 million funding gap between Schwartz’s plan and Superintendent Patrick Murphy’s proposed $617 million budget.
- Various solutions to increase the county’s affordable housing stock, including more funding for housing grants and a higher zoning fee for apartment developers.
- Funding for the county’s streetlight repair program, which is in line to receive a big boost under Schwartz’s proposed budget but not under his optional cuts.
- Opposition to an optional cut to the $50,000 program that removes snow from local trails with the same priority as street snow removal.
- The financial literacy program within the Virginia Cooperative Extension and permanent county funding for the financial education program associate position to run it.
Earlier this month, opinion columnist Mark Kelly suggested that Schwartz’s optional cuts were purposefully unpalatable, “designed to make taxpayers believe there are few desirable options when it comes to trimming the budget.” Schwartz, in a statement, said making budget cut recommendations “is always difficult, particularly given the growing demands and potential impacts on our community.’
The County Board will return for another public hearing tomorrow night, this time about the proposed tax rate and fee hikes. The budget is slated for final adoption on April 22.
Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz has proposed a series of budget cuts to halve his proposed two cent tax increase to one cent.
The cuts to Schwartz’s proposed budget total $11.1 million and include everything from a multi-million dollar reduction in school funding to a reduction of hours at the Glencarlyn library and the elimination of a management intern position in the parks department.
From a county press release:
The potential reductions would affect a range of County services, including Human Services, Libraries, Parks and Recreation, Community Planning and Housing and Economic Development. The options also include eliminating both planned service improvements in the streetlight program and additional staff for the County jail. Schwartz also recommended that, based on the principles of revenue sharing between County Government and Arlington Public Schools (APS), $3.5 million of the cuts from the on-going budget and $1.7 million of the cuts from the one-time budget come from the APS budget.
The Arlington County Board advertised Schwartz’s recommended two cent tax rate increase but also asked him to recommend some budget cuts, as an option to consider.
“Putting together budget reduction options is always difficult, particularly given the growing demands and potential impacts on our community,” Schwartz said in a statement. “The package makes no change to the additional resources committed to Metro. Since we presented our Proposed Budget on Feb. 25, jurisdictions are facing a Metro funding deficit that may grow even larger.”
Under the advertisement, the Board cannot raise the property tax rate more than two cents for every $100 in assessed value this year. (At last month’s meeting, Board members Libby Garvey and Christian Dorsey proposed, unsuccessfully, setting the advertised rate three cents higher than the current $0.991 for every $100.)
The Board will hold public hearings on the budget and the tax rate on March 28 and March 30, respectively. Final adoption of the budget is scheduled for April 22.
Members of the Reevesland Learning Center say Arlington should be seeking to add to, not subtract from, its parks and facilities. They’ve been fighting for several years to have the farmhouse, at 400 N. Manchester Street in the Boulevard Manor neighborhood, converted to a community space where children could learn about healthy eating and the history of the Reeves farm.
In 2015, Arlington County split the 2.5 acre Reevesland property, incorporating much of the open space into Bluemont Park while the house and the land around it was to be sold to a private buyer. On Feb. 28, Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz recommended the sale of the farmhouse move forward, asking for County Board direction at the board’s March meeting.
“Our efforts to work with the Reeves Farm Conservation Society, Inc. and Reevesland Learning Center have not resulted in a viable community proposal for the farmhouse,” Schwartz said in a statement.
In a letter sent Wednesday, members of the Reevesland Learning Center disputed the county’s assertion that renovating the farmhouse for public use would be too costly and challenging.
The full letter, after the jump.
Photo courtesy Peter Roof
County residents could see a property tax hike of up to 2 cents per $100 of assessed value after the Arlington County Board voted Saturday to advertise the possible maximum increase.
County Manager Mark Schwartz said the hike would pay for what he described as the “extraordinary circumstances” facing the board in increasing costs for Arlington Public Schools and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
Under the 2-cent rise, APS and WMATA would each receive half of the added tax revenue. The average tax and fee burden for residential properties would increase by around $300 a year, factoring in a rise in property assessments, while the residential property tax rate would reach $1.011 for every $100 in assessed value, the highest rate since 2001.
Board members approved the measure by a 3-2 vote, with Libby Garvey and Christian Dorsey voting against. The vote included a proposal by board member John Vihstadt to request that Schwartz explore alternative budget options if property taxes increase by only 1 cent.
But both Dorsey and Garvey criticized Vihstadt’s plan, saying it was “too late in the game” to be introducing such a proposal.
“I totally support the whole idea of exploring these alternatives, but the way we do it now by rolling it into this action, we’re changing the budget process,” Dorsey said.
Board chairman Jay Fisette said that Schwartz’s proposal is just the beginning of talks about the county’s budget.
“Today we received the manager’s proposed budget, and we set the maximum tax rates and fees that we can consider,” Fisette said. “Now the responsibility shifts to us. This is the start of the Board’s conversation with the public about priorities for fiscal 2018. For the next nearly two months, we will be scrubbing the manager’s proposed budget and listening to the community.”
The proposed $1.2 billion fiscal 2018 budget includes $759.3 million in the county operations budget, a 3.9 increase over fiscal 2017. Also proposed are increases in household solid waste rates, a water/sewer rate increase, a new accessory homestay permit fee of $60 for those who use online booking platforms like Airbnb and various parks and recreation program fee changes.
Schwartz said APS faces challenges around its growing enrollment, which he said grows by approximately 1,000 students each year. His budget would include $478.3 million funding for the school system, an increase by $11.1 million.
“Simply put, Arlington Public Schools is facing an enrollment tsunami,” Schwartz said. “Each year, they have additional students come; whether they want them or not, additional students show up and they need to be be educated.”
Metro represents another fiscal stumbling-block for the county, as well as the region at large. Currently, Schwartz said, Arlington pays 8 percent of the agency’s total operating costs, to the tune of $56 million.
Metro general manager Paul Wiedefeld proposed all jurisdictions increasing their subsidy, with its fiscal 2018 proposal asking that Arlington increase its subsidy to around $71 million.
That subsidy would be funded in part by state transit aid, staff reductions at WMATA, gas tax funding and money from the Transform I-66 project. It would leave a gap of approximately $6 million, with the additional penny of real estate tax adding $7.4 million.
The board will hold a series of budget work sessions next month, then public hearings on the budget and the tax rate on March 28 and March 30, respectively. The latter will include discussion on members’ possible pay rises. The board is expected to adopt the budget on April 22.
(Updated at 5:30 p.m.) A new $1.2 billion budget proposed by Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz would boost core services — road paving, streetlight maintenance, public safety, schools and Metro — while raising property taxes to the highest rate since 2001.
The proposed FY 2018 budget is being presented to the County Board this afternoon (Thursday).
Spending under Schwartz’s proposal — drafted with guidance from the County Board — would increase 4.3 percent, while the tax rate would increase by two cents, from $0.991 to $1.011 for every $100 in assessed. That would be Arlington’s highest property tax rate since 2001, when it was $1.023.
The rate increase would come on top of rising property assessments — up 2.9 percent this year. The total tax and fee burden on the average Arlington homeowner would rise by $308 to $8,613 under Schwartz’s proposal, which will now be considered by the County Board after a series of work sessions and public hearings. That’s up from $7,745 three years ago, in 2014.
Final adoption of the new budget is scheduled for April 22, while the Arlington Public Schools budget — Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy is presenting his proposed budget tonight — is scheduled to be adopted on May 4.
Last year, Schwartz proposed a half-cent property tax rate decrease, which was then adopted by the Board. This year, Schwartz says more revenue is necessary to fund the “clearly extraordinary needs of Metro and APS.”
The two-cent rate increase itself is expected to bring in an additional $14.8 million in on-going revenue. Much of that is earmarked by Schwartz for an overall $21.2 million increase in funding for Arlington Public Schools, which is experiencing a prolonged period of enrollment growth, and additional funding for Metro, which is also set to receive $22 million in bond funds from Arlington for capital projects.
“It is never easy to recommend an increase in property tax rates, but Metro and our public schools are both vitally important to our County’s continued prosperity, and both are in urgent need of additional funding,” Schwartz said in a press release.
Other areas of spending increases, as outlined in the press release and in a press briefing Thursday morning, include streetlight maintenance, road paving, facilities maintenance, land acquisition, public safety and economic development.
Schwartz said streetlight maintenance and road maintenance, in particular, were identified as top priorities in resident satisfaction surveys.
The number of county-owned streetlights has increased 40 percent over the past five years, contributing to an average repair time of 30 days for minor outages and up to 120 days for major outages. Under the proposed budget, there would be an $910,000 increase in streetlight and trail light funding, adding five new full-time positions, two vehicles, a consultant, equipment and supplies, with the goal of reducing the length of minor repairs to 3 days and major repairs to 1-2 months.
“It’s a safety issue,” Schwartz said of dark streetlights. “People want their government to do the basics before other things.”
Road paving, meanwhile, would receive a $3.3 million boost in funding, with $15.2 million budgeted by Schwartz in FY 2018. Arlington has accelerated its paving program over the past few years, with the goal of raising the county’s Pavement Condition Index to the “high 70s” on a 1-100 scale, according an official at the briefing.
Schwartz’s budget includes $3.5 million for maintenance of synthetic turf fields and other county facilities, $2 million for land acquisition, $250,000 in grants to connect businesses to the county’s ConnectArlington fiber network, a new economic development employee focused on assisting child care businesses, and a 3.25 percent merit salary increase for county employees.
Also included are seven additional sheriff’s deputies, three additional 911 call-takers three additional police officers, all funded “through reallocation of existing resources,” plus two large fire department recruit classes to make up for projected retirements and other attrition.
“[The budget] continued the multi-year-focus on the three priorities I have laid out: economic development, service delivery and transparency, and strategic budget planning and fiscal sustainability, while addressing the core service demands of the County mainly through budget reallocations,” said Schwartz.
Schwartz proposes raising a number of county fees, to “bear a reasonable relationship to the service for which the fee is imposed,” including:
- Raising the household solid waste rate by $6.88 to $314.16 annually
- Raising the water/sewer rate by 35 cents to $13.62 per thousand gallons, an estimated annual increase of $24.50 per household
- New “accessory homestay” (Airbnb, etc.) permit fee of $60
- An unspecified increase in aquatics and gymnastics program fees “to meet the increased capacity in the programs.”
The public budget and tax/fee hearings are scheduled for March 28 and 30.
As Arlington County continues to grow in population and in services provided by the county government, the need for more land to support those services is increasing, says County Manager Mark Schwartz.
Schwartz spoke about the land needs in a county-produced video, above, which was released late last week.
He pointed out that only 12 percent of county- and school-owned land is designated for support services — maintenance yards, storage facilities, etc.
“This is not enough space,” Schwartz said.
Putting the need in perspective, Schwartz pointed out that the county last year filled 12,000 potholes over its 975 lane miles of roadway, repaired 271 water main breaks over its 525 miles of water mains, and facilitated 3.1 million rides on its 65 (soon to be 90, by 2020) ART buses.
All of that work and maintenance requires support facilities, and the county’s current facilities are getting too crowded.
Schwartz said that supporting the “needs and wants of this community” is “a real challenge with limited space,” which will require “smart and tough decisions about addressing these needs.”
Arlington County is currently considering a $30 million land acquisition near Washington-Lee High School and subsequent, proposed land swap, which would provide additional property near Shirlington in exchange for a portion of the acquired land.
Together, the two actions would add a net 7.3 acres of industrial-zoned land to county ownership.
In the video, Schwartz said the land swap proposal is “attractive,” but noted that no decisions have been made yet.
“We wanted to be transparent and release the proposal as soon as possible,” he said. At its Dec. 13 meeting, the County Board is expected to direct Schwartz to move forward with negotiations on the proposal.
Arcland Property Company, which owns a swath of industrial land near Shirlington, wants to swap those 3.5 acres for 2.3 acres of the 6.1 acre “Buck property” site across from W-L, which the county has an option to purchase for $30 million.
Arlington, which is already leasing a portion of the Shirlington property for parking, would get an even larger piece of property for its expanding ART bus fleet — it’s expected to grow from 65 to 90 vehicles by 2020 — and would save $4 million in lease payments.
Arcland would get the piece of the Buck property closest to N. Quincy Street, in the Virginia Square area, and would use it for a six-story, 150,000 square foot self-storage facility. (The company also developed the CubeSmart storage facility, which is located adjacent to I-395, next to the land it proposes to swap.)
Neighbors might object to the facility — they objected to a county proposal to use the Buck property for school bus parking — but the property is zoned for light industrial use and the facility could be built by right. The county says it will require tasteful building design as part of a deal.
“The land exchange agreement, if reached, would require high quality architecture from Arcland compatible with the surrounding neighborhood,” the county said in a press release. “The proposed facility must also comply with M-1 (light industrial) zoning regulations including set back and height restrictions, as would any use the County makes of the Shirlington site.”
Arcland only expects to use 1.2 acres of the Quincy Street property for the storage facility. The remaining 1.1 acres would be leased back to the county “at below market rate.”
“This is a rare opportunity for the County to secure land in Shirlington, zoned for light industrial use, that could accommodate our growing bus fleet,” County Manager Mark Schwartz said in a statement. “We have a critical need for support facilities, and must make smart, tough decisions about land to meet those needs. If the Board is interested in pursuing this proposal, I will work to shape an agreement with Arcland. I am confident that we can put facilities on these sites that will both serve our community’s needs and allow us to be a good neighbor.”
The deal will be discussed at next month’s Arlington County Board meeting. From the press release:
The proposed exchange, if approved, would take place after November 20, 2017, the date on which the County must exercise its option to purchase the N. Quincy Street site. The land exchange would involve no additional cost beyond the $30 million that the County has already agreed to pay for the N. Quincy Street site.
The Manager plans to seek the Board’s approval to pursue negotiations with Arcland at the Board’s December meeting. If the Board approves negotiations, any agreement that might be reached would come before the Board for consideration in 2017.
Update at 11 a.m. — Jim Todd, president of the Cherrydale Citizens Association, sent the following email to residents last night regarding the potential deal.
This is a complex issue and there are a lot of potential trade offs. On the plus side, the land swap would end the potential for the County to move the bus depot from Shirlington to the Buck property. But on the down side, it would also limit the County’s ability to use all of the Buck property for other, larger purposes (as the Buck property is also adjacent to Hayes Park, across the street from Washington-Lee High School, etc.).
This seems like its happening fast, but there is still plenty of time for us to better understand what’s going on, and to learn what other trade-offs and potential upsides and downsides there may be. I understand that the next step is for the County Board to talk about whether to further entertain this idea at its December 13 meeting. But I have been told that the Board will not be making a final decision at that meeting.
County Manager Mark Schwartz presented his proposed FY 2017-26 Capital Improvement Plan earlier this week. The County Board will now hold a series of work sessions and public hearings before final adoption of the plan and the November slate of bond referenda by the Board on July 19.
The CIP includes $177 million of proposed bond referenda for November, for the following projects:
Metro and Transportation – $59 million
- Metro – fulfilling our ongoing commitment – $30 million, a 31 percent increase from the 2014 referenda ($23 million).
- Paving – maintaining our roads – $24 million a 27 percent increase over the last CIP
Parks and Recreation – $19 million
- Maintenance capital of $12 million;
- Land acquisition of $3 million a 50 percent increase over the prior CIP
Government Facilities – $70 million
- Design for Fire Station 8 (Completion of the Fire Station 8 Task Force work will inform a construction referenda request in 2018)
- Facilities Maintenance capital — $11 million
- Construction of Lubber Run Community Center – $46 million
- Barcroft Gymnastics Expansion – $3 million
Community Conservation – $17 million
- Continued support of Neighborhood Conservation – $12 million
- Construction of the Nauck Town Square – $5 million
Joint County Schools – $12 million
- Parking structure at Thomas Jefferson site
Schwartz’s plan is notable both for what it contains and what it doesn’t contain. For one, the plan asks for no additional funds for the proposed, scaled-down Long Bridge Park aquatics and fitness center.
The plan is being billed as a balance of new capital spending projects and maintenance that stays within the limits needed to preserve Arlington’s AAA bond rating, at a time when Arlington Public Schools is in the midst of major construction projects to keep up with rising enrollment. The CIP assumes annual county revenue growth of 2-3 percent, which officials say is a conservative projection.
This is the first Capital Improvement Plan since the cancelation of the Columbia Pike/Crystal City streetcar project. The plan “reallocates money from the cancelled project into a premium [bus] transit network for Columbia Pike that eventually will offer a one-ride trip from the west end of the Pike to Potomac Yard.”
“Our priorities are clear,” Schwartz said in a press release. “We will fund a premium transit network for Columbia Pike that will bring many of the benefits of a streetcar, at less cost, to that heavily traveled corridor. We include substantial funding for Schools capacity needs and the Superintendent’s proposed CIP priorities. We also will address our community’s growing need for recreational facilities and open space by replacing the aging Lubber Run Community Center and moving forward with the Long Bridge Park Aquatics and Fitness Center and surrounding 10 acres of parkland within existing funding. We also will fund the design of a new fire station to replace Lee Highway’s obsolete Fire Station No. 8.”
“The proposed CIP is a 4.4 percent increase over the FY 15-FY 24 Adopted CIP of $2.7 billion,” the press release notes.
“It includes more than $1.3 billion in funding for transportation over the next 10 years. Some of that money would be used to expand the County’s successful Arlington Transit (ART) bus system, adding 25 buses to the 65-bus fleet by FY 2022. Another $421 million is proposed for water-sewer infrastructure funding over the next 10 years. Also included is funding to acquire the Buck property, on N. Quincy Street, and $6 million to build an on-line payment portal and supporting systems.”
After a national search, County Manager Mark Schwartz has selected Acting Assistant Chief James Bonzano to be Arlington’s new permanent chief, effective May 8.
“Chief Bonzano brings a wealth of experience to this position, as well as deep ties to the Arlington community and Fire Department,” Schwartz said in a statement (below). “Over the last three decades, he has been committed to being a strong and progressive leader and I am thrilled that he will continue to do so as our new Fire Chief.”
Bonzano’s career with ACFD has included serving as the Fire/EMS branch director following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the Pentagon.
Arlington has not had a permanent fire chief since last September, when Chief James Schwartz was appointed deputy county manager.
The full county press release on Bonzano’s appointment:
County Manager Mark Schwartz has named James Bonzano Arlington County Fire Chief, after an extensive national search. Chief Bonzano joined the ACFD in 1984, and has worked in a multitude of positions in his 31 years with the department, most recently serving as Acting Assistant Chief. Over the course of his career he has led and served in nearly every section of the fire department, including time as South Deputy Chief, Personnel Services Section Chief and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Battalion Chief. Chief Bonzano will begin his new position on May 8.
“Chief Bonzano brings a wealth of experience to this position, as well as deep ties to the Arlington community and Fire Department,” said Schwartz. “Over the last three decades, he has been committed to being a strong and progressive leader and I am thrilled that he will continue to do so as our new Fire Chief.”
Chief Bonzano has worked to create positive and lasting partnerships with both the community and regional fire prevention and EMS programs. He serves on committees for both the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and the Northern Virginia Chiefs Committee, and is a well-known and respected member of the public safety community.
“I am honored to work alongside the great men and women of the ACFD,” said Bonzano. “I was born here in Arlington, and I feel privileged to continue to serve this community as Fire Chief. I am looking forward to the great things I know we will accomplish together.”
Chief Bonzano received his Master’s degree from Marymount University in Organizational Leadership and Innovation, and his Bachelor’s degree in Health Science from Old Dominion University. He currently serves on the Board of Trustees at Dominion Hospital and as a Board Member for the Northern Virginia Community College EMS Program.
After the jump, Schwartz’s memo to county employees.