Family Wants to See Relative Shot By Police — The family of Steven Best, who was shot by police last week after allegedly trying to ram a police cruiser with a van, says they have not been allowed to see him nor have they been given information on his condition. [WJLA]
Legislative Threat Helped Country Club Tax Deal — “The decision by two Arlington country clubs to take their case to the General Assembly helped get all parties to come together on a deal more expeditiously than otherwise might have been the case, the Arlington government’s top legal official said,” reports the Sun Gazette. Arlington clubs, meanwhile, “came away with most of what they were seeking in assessment reductions.” [InsideNova, Washington Post]
Local Sixth Graders Make Headlines — A fourth-period, sixth-grade class at Gunston Middle School is the May Class of WaPo’s KidsPost. [Washington Post]
Marymount Employee’s Boston Marathon Journey — Katie Sprinkel, a lab coordinator and adjunct professor at Arlington’s Marymount University, overcame knee and leg injuries — and a battle with breast cancer — to finish this year’s Boston Marathon. She was back at work the next day. [Marymount University]
Arlington Among Top Walkable Places — Arlington is No. 9 on a list of the most walkable communities in the country. The list was compiled by the travel site Expedia. [Viewfinder]
Major Metro Work Starting Next Summer — “There will be no service on Metro’s Blue and Yellow lines south of Reagan National Airport for 98 days beginning in May 2019, as the transit agency embarks on a platform rebuilding project spanning six stations, part of an effort to refurbish 20 station platforms over three years.” Arlington’s East Falls Church Metro station is also on the list of platforms to be rebuilt. [Washington Post, WMATA]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
The Arlington County Board on Saturday unanimously passed a $1.276 billion balanced budget that includes a number of fee increases but no real estate tax rate hike.
The FY 2019 budget notably restores $70,000 in funding for Arlington Independent Media — County Manager Mark Schwartz proposed cutting about $90,000 in county funds for the community TV and radio broadcaster — after AIM collected more than 1,300 online petition signatures against the cut. The Board also boosted first responder pay, particularly starting pay which police and firefighter associations say is low and hurting recruitment, by $1.6 million above the manager’s recommendation, which already included a pay boost.
Funding the increased spending is the reallocation of $2.5 million from proposed renovations to the county government headquarters in Courthouse and the freezing of 16 vacant public safety positions.
Per the manager’s recommendations, the budget also increases parking meter rates and extends metered hours until 8 p.m., while increasing utility taxes, household waste fees and various departmental fees.
“The Board largely accepted the $8.4 million in spending reductions, $6.6 million in fee and tax increases and $5.5 million in funding realignments recommended by the County Manager in his proposed budget,” notes a county press release, below. County Board Chair Katie Cristol called the adopted budget “sustainably progressive.”
County funding for Arlington Public Schools will top the $500 million mark, as the school system continues to face pressures from enrollment growth and the opening of new schools. Metro, meanwhile, will receive a 3 percent increase in funding, receiving $73.1 million from the county’s coffers and state transit aid earmarked for Arlington.
In addition to AIM and first responders, the Board nixed the following cuts proposed by Schwartz, according to the markup record:
- $620,000 for the Affordable Housing Investment Fund
- $365,000 for Lee Highway planning and $25,000 for the Lee Highway Alliance
- $40,000 for the Legal Aid Justice Center, which serves immigrants
- $200,000 for a body scanner at the county jail
- $50,000 for the Arlington County Fair
- $20,000 for community shredding events
- $40,000 for the Arlington Neighborhood College program
- $184,000 for a youth mental health therapist
Among the proposed cuts not restored: the elimination of the printed Citizen newsletter, the elimination of two ART bus routes, the elimination of Arlington’s poet laureate and a $555,000 cut to the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy residential rebate program.
The latter drew some pushback from Board members.
“The cuts that we’re doing this year to AIRE — nobody’s going to die, there’s nothing fundamentally that any of us are going to lose sleep over or should be ashamed of,” said Erik Gutshall. “But while people don’t die, our planet is dying, its ability to sustain our life at least.”
“In future budgets, while we’re going to continue to make tough choices, we’re not going to let our commitment to the environment fall behind,” he added.
Despite the disagreements, the Board was unanimous in its vote on the budget, which Board members praised for prioritizing key areas while avoiding a tax rate increase. (The tax burden on the average homeowner will still increase by $296.)
“Despite the reductions, there are investments our community can be proud of in this budget,” Cristol said in a statement. “We prioritized funding our public schools, especially teachers, and investing in our workforce, especially public safety personnel. We preserved our social safety net and sustained funding for affordable housing and core services.”
“I see this budget really as a transition from the way we’ve been doing things to the way we’ll need to do things going forward,” said Libby Garvey. “This community has pretty much gotten used to having as much money as we need to do what we want to do. This year it’s starting to change. It’s likely to be even harder in the future with the stresses we have moving forward. I think it’s a good transition to what we’ll be doing moving forward.”
“What I think we’ve done is really weatherize our fiscal house for the inclement weather ahead,” echoed John Vihstadt. “It’s only going to get tougher as we move forward, but we took some important steps here that, while not greeted uniformly favorably, were necessary to be done.”
Arlington Independent Media and public safety associations, meanwhile, expressed gratitude for the additional funding.
Thanks to all our members, producers & supporters for sharing your stories with @ArlingtonVA County Board. Thanks to @kcristol @Arl_CDorsey @libbygarvey @jevarlington & @erik4arlington for listening! We appreciate the work you do. We look forward to the future! #ArlingtonVA
— AIM (@arlington_media) April 21, 2018
THANK YOU to the Arl CB for adopting the FY19 budget w/ enhanced public safety pay! This will help retain & recruit high-quality police officers & firefighters. #FairPayforFirstResponders @kcristol @Arl_CDorsey @libbygarvey @voteforvihstadt @erik4arlington https://t.co/yf3AWNI1Vn
— Arlington Police Beneficiary Association (@ArlPoliceAssoc) April 21, 2018
Yes…thank you to the Board and County Manager for listening and supporting us. This was a positive step forward for public safety. https://t.co/P2NytKBoJT
— IAFF Local 2800 (@IAFF2800) April 21, 2018
Arlington County’s press release about the budget, after the jump.
Beyer’s GOP Challenger Holding Arlington Event — “Republican congressional candidate Thomas Oh will host a campaign kickoff on Tuesday, April 24 from 5 to 8 p.m. at Spider Kelly’s, 3181 Wilson Blvd. Oh is the GOP challenger to U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th), who is seeking a third term. He was the only Republican to file for the nomination.” [InsideNova]
Local Scenes on Sale at Arts Fest — Among the artists at the upcoming Arlington Festival of the Arts in Clarendon will be Joseph Craig English, whose “silkscreens and lithographs capture local landmarks and street corners in vivid colors,” including “an architectural juxtaposition of old buildings and new construction in Courthouse; Potomac River vistas; local murals and street signs known to commuters who’ve passed by them for years.” [Arlington Magazine]
Arlington Tourism Surtax Gets Gov’s Signature — “The Arlington County government will be able to continue collecting a surtax on hotel stays to pay for tourism promotion, now that Gov. Northam has signed legislation extending the measure for three more years.” [InsideNova]
Don’t Try This at Home — Per scanner traffic, police officers responding to a call yesterday afternoon were advised that “the suspect is known for using hand sanitizer as an alcoholic drink.”
Nearby: Alexandria OKs More Funding for Metro Station — “Plans to build a new Metro station at Potomac Yard in Alexandria, Virginia, took a crucial step forward Tuesday. Alexandria City Council unanimously approved raising the budget from $268 million to $320 million. The change was made in part to reflect the rising cost of materials and labor.” [WTOP]
Photo by Dwayne Stewart
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has vetoed legislation that would have dramatically reduced Arlington County’s tax revenue from two country clubs.
HB 1204 would have reduced the tax bills for Army Navy Country Club and Washington Golf and Country Club, but would have cost the county’s coffers nearly $1.5 million annually.
The state legislature will now have an opportunity to override the veto.
More from an Arlington County press release:
“We are grateful to Governor Northam for vetoing HB 1204,” Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol said. “The governor, by his action to keep authority over local property assessments in the hands of local government, and not in Richmond, has shown real leadership. This legislation had major implications for all localities across the Commonwealth.”
Arlington encourages all local governments to unify and ask their legislators to sustain the veto when the General Assembly reconvenes April 18 at the State Capitol, Cristol said.
“We are committed to resolving the assessment issue with the golf courses, and we are confident that we can find an equitable solution,” she said. “I want to thank our Arlington delegation for standing strong with us throughout this process.”
In his veto message, Northam says that he expects Arlington and the clubs to reach a compromise soon. The clubs are suing the county, fighting back against what they say is an unfair way to assess what is essentially open space — treating the many acres of golf courses as developable land.
The governor’s veto message is below.
Pursuant to Article V, Section 6, of the Constitution of Virginia, I veto House Bill 1204, which requires the County of Arlington to assess two private country clubs within its boundaries as land dedicated to open space rather than its current method of highest and best use.
This is a local dispute over a local government’s method of assessing land for property taxation. As such, the solution to this dispute should be reached on the local level without the involvement of the state.
I have been assured that an agreement acceptable to both sides of this dispute is close to being reached. I encourage the parties to continue negotiations to find a solution so that similar legislation will not be necessary in the future.
Accordingly, I veto this bill.
Ralph S. Northam
Favola Weighs in on Country Club Tax Bill — State Sen. Barbara Favola (D) said in an op-ed that Gov. Ralph Northam should veto a bill lowering the taxes of Arlington country clubs. She added: “If the country clubs are really interested in preserving open space, Virginia has a successful land preservation tax-credit program. It gives financial incentives to landowners who agree to keep their open space undeveloped, in perpetuity, while ensuring that the space is maintained for everyone’s benefit.” [Washington Post]
Fatal Motorcycle Crash Near Fairlington — A 34-year-old Haymarket man died after he crashed his motorcycle on King Street near Fairlington early Friday morning. Residents said on a local online group that a large group of motorcyclists was riding down King Street at the time of the crash. [Patch, WTOP]
New Ballston Restaurant Serving Nepalese Dishes — Urban Tandoor, which opened last week in Ballston, is serving Tibetan dumplings — or momos — in addition to the traditional Indian fare that makes up most of the menu. [Eater]
Dance Party on Streets of Clarendon — An impromptu group song and dance performance broke out on a Clarendon sidewalk after last call early Saturday morning. [Twitter]
Another Successful E-CARE — Arlington’s E-CARE recycling and disposal event over the weekend collected 83,208 pounds of “household hazards” over the weekend. [Twitter]
Hundreds Give Blood in Ballston — “Hundreds lined up at the Washington Capitals practice facility to donate blood for Inova Blood Donor Services. The drive, held at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, was one of several sports-themed drives that Inova holds every year, teaming up with local sports teams to promote blood donation in a fun way.” [WTOP]
Flickr pool photo by Lisa Novak
Northam Talks Golf Course Bill — Speaking on WTOP’s “Ask the Governor” program, Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va.) addressed the country club tax bill that Arlington officials want him to veto. Northam said the taxation of Army Navy Country Club, which counts numerous veterans among its members, particularly “needs to be addressed” and that if negotiations are not successful he will “step in and take action,” though the exact action he would take is unclear. [WTOP]
How Arlington Almost Was Home to the Nationals — Boosters of baseball in Arlington almost succeeded in bringing a Major League Baseball team to the county. The Nationals, before landing near Navy Yard in D.C., were considering a stadium site in Pentagon City, but a series of unfortunate events nixed it. [Arlington Magazine]
ART Bus Turns into Sauna — From a Twitter user yesterday: “@ART_Alert my bus driver just begged me to contact you and ask to get his bus fixed. The heat is stuck on the bus and it must be 95 degrees inside.” [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
The Arlington County Board sent a letter to Gov. Ralph Northam today (March 27) requesting that he veto a bill adopted by the General Assembly that would provide big tax savings to two Arlington country clubs but cost the county millions.
The bill would mandate an open space assessment of golf course properties in the county, providing big tax breaks to Washington Golf and Country Club and Army Navy Country Club. According to a county press release, the assessment changes would result in a county revenue loss of about $1.43 million per year.
The hit to the county’s coffer would require “significant potential reductions in the areas of student education, public safety, transportation, community health, and social services,” the letter said, suggesting also that the “preferential tax treatment” conflicted with the Code of Virginia and the state constitution.
“This bill comes at a time when our community is already grappling with reductions to services in order to address budget gaps for the upcoming fiscal year and larger projected budget gaps in future years,” said the letter, which was signed by all five County Board members.
The full text of the letter after the jump. (more…)
Dem Support for Country Club Bill Slips — A procedural vote in the Virginia House of Delegates to send the Arlington country club bill to the governor’s desk passed, but without a veto-proof margin. Some Democratic lawmakers who supported the bill the first time around voted no instead. If signed by Gov. Ralph Northam (D), the legislation would greatly lower the property taxes of Army Navy Country Club and Washington Golf and Country Club. [InsideNova]
Food Trucks Grumble About Festival Fees — “To participate in May’s Taste of Arlington festival… food trucks must pay a flat fee of between $400 and $500. Festival attendees purchase tickets worth $5 each that can be redeemed at food trucks for a few bites. When the gates close, event organizers reimburse the food truck between 25 and 75 cents per ticket… Would you sign this contract?” [Washington City Paper]
‘Women of Vision’ Awards — Nominations are now being accepted for the 2018 Arlington Women of Vision Awards. The nomination deadline is April 20. [Arlington County]
How to Do Business With Arlington — Arlington is hosting an event next week that will show small businesses “the nuances of successfully doing business with Arlington County.” Per the event website: “Experts will be speaking on topics such as obtaining opportunities to work with the County and understanding the procurement process.” [Arlington Economic Development]
Nearby: Alexandria Tops Tourism List — Alexandria is No. 1 on Money magazine’s “The 20 Best Places to Go in 2018” list, topping Anaheim, Calif., the home of Disneyland, among other destinations. Harper’s Ferry, W. Va. was ranked No. 2. [Washington Post]
Partisans Stake Out Sides on Country Club Tax Bill — There are two very different political perspectives on the state bill that would greatly lower the tax bills of Arlington’s two country clubs. On one hand, a writer on the conservative blog Bearing Drift says Arlington’s tax treatment of Army-Navy Country Club (which is covered by the bill along with Washington Golf & Country Club) is “manifestly unfair, and… impacts an especially distinguished and patriotic group of older folks.” On the other hand, progressive blog Blue Virginia says the bill, which passed the Virginia General Assembly last week, should be vetoed by Gov. Ralph Northam (D) because it would “lavish big $$$ on super-rich people, weaken local autonomy vs state AND set a horrible precedent.” [Bearing Drift, Blue Virginia]
County Launches Online Payments for Building Permits — After years of grumbles from local businesses, starting today Arlington County is accepting online payments for building permits. Payments can only be made online when one is submitting permits via the ePlan Review portal. [Arlington County]
Arlington Tourism Tax Bill Passes — “More than a dozen Republican members of the House of Delegates voted against, but Arlington’s effort to retain its ability to levy a surtax on hotel stays to pay for tourism promotion is headed to the governor’s desk.” [InsideNova]
Arlingtonian Making World Record Attempt — Crystal City resident and elite runner Tyler Andrews will attempt to break the 3o-year-old record for fastest 50K run next month. [STRIVE Trips]
First Down Marks Ninth Anniversary — First Down Sports Bar & Grill in Ballston is celebrating 9 years in business today. [ARLnow Events]
Nearby: Lebanese Taverna Closing in Bethesda — Arlington-based local restaurant chain Lebanese Taverna is closing its Bethesda location, citing an inability to reach agreement on a new lease with the landlord of Bethesda Row. [Bethesda Beat]
Photo courtesy Paola Lyle
Golf Course Tax Bill Passes — A bill that would provide a massive tax break to two Arlington country clubs has passed the Virginia General Assembly. The bill, if signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam (D), would cost Arlington $1.5 million or more in tax revenue. [Washington Post]
Military Couple Fights Wife’s Deportation — The wife of a retired Army special forces veteran was to face deportation in an Arlington-based immigration court next week, but the Dept. of Homeland Security is now offering to drop the proceedings. Prior to the reversal, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) called said via social media: “Military families should not be targeted like this. It’s unconscionable.” [Military Times, Twitter]
Cherry Blossom Bloom Prediction — The National Park Service expects peak bloom for the Tidal Basin cherry blossoms to take place March 17-20. [PoPville]
Beyer’s GOP Challenger — “The Republican challenger to U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D) used a Feb. 28 meeting of the Arlington County Republican Committee to introduce himself to the county’s GOP rank-and-file. ‘I look forward to the campaign,’ said Thomas Oh… an Army veteran and currently a contractor in Falls Church.” [InsideNova]
County Seeking Budget Feedback — Arlington County is seeking feedback on its proposed budget. The online survey asks residents to weigh in on various priorities, including county employee raises, economic development, Metro funding, school funding, infrastructure investment and affordable housing. [SurveyMonkey]
Major Orange and Silver Line Issues — Orange and Silver line Metro service has been restored but significant delays remain from an earlier disabled train at the Ballston station. [Washington Post, Twitter, Twitter]
Legislature Considering Expanding I-66 Tolls — Del. Tim Hugo (R), the state lawmaker who proposed a bill that would slash Arlington’s tax revenue from country clubs, is now also proposing legislation that would require I-66 to be tolled in both directions. “If you live in Arlington, D.C. or Maryland, and you are going to Tysons Corner or west, you pay no toll in the morning and you get a free ride home,” Hugo said. “We will even it out by getting some people in Arlington to pick up the freight.” [Washington Post]
County Board Members Lobby Against Country Club Bill — Both Libby Garvey (D) and John Vihstadt (I) were in Richmond yesterday to lobby against HB 1204, the bill that would provide a “windfall tax cut” for Arlington’s two country clubs. [Twitter]
Vegas Bunnies Arrive in Arlington — “Six furry, floppy-eared cottontails dubbed the ‘Las Vegas bunnies’ have arrived at an animal rescue center in Arlington after many others were poisoned in Nevada.” [Washington Post]
Arlington School Board Bill Passes — A state bill that would ensure that Arlington County has the legal standing to have an elected School Board, after questions arose about the School Board’s legality, has passed the state legislature and is now heading to Gov. Ralph Northam (D) for his signature. [InsideNova]
A state bill targeted at helping country clubs in Arlington would cost the county more than $2 million in tax revenue, an internal county report says.
HB 1204, patroned by Fairfax and Prince William County Del. Tim Hugo (R), passed the House of Delegates last week by a vote of 65-33-1. The bill would “reserve to the Commonwealth the power to classify golf courses as land dedicated to open space for assessment and tax purposes,” according to an internal Arlington County fact sheet.
More from the bill’s summary:
Requires the assessing official in any county that experienced at least a 14% increase in population from 2010 to 2016 to specially and separately assess real property that is devoted to open space and contains at least five acres based on the actual physical use of the property, if requested to do so by the owner. The measure is effective for taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 2018.
The bill only would apply to Arlington and Loudoun counties, we’re told, and it would primarily affect the tax assessments of two entities: Army Navy Country Club and Washington Golf and Country Club, both in Arlington.
The country clubs are currently suing the county, challenging their respective assessments. Arlington assesses each based in part on their potential value as developable land, meaning that the assessments — and yearly tax bills — are much higher than if the clubs were assessed only on the basis of their current use.
Army Navy Country Club, near Pentagon City, was assessed at $149 million this year, and paid $1.5 million in taxes last year, according to county records. Washington Golf and Country Club, located along N. Glebe Road near Marymount University, is assessed at $79 million and paid about $839,000 in taxes last year.
The internal county report says that the country clubs are both currently assessed as “large acreage parcels,” valued at about $12 per square foot. By comparison, some residential property near WGCC is assessed at nearly $100 per square foot. Should the legislation pass, the assessed value of the clubs is expected to drop to around $0.50 per square foot, costing the county nearly $2.4 million.
“This is a bad bill for Arlington County government and for Arlington County property owners,” said County Board Chair Katie Cristol, adding that it would set a “damaging precedent.”
The Virginia Municipal League is opposing Hugo’s bill, which is currently being considered by the state Senate. In an email, the organization urged localities to take action.
“Notwithstanding the arguments posed by the bill’s proponents, the measure shatters existing state policy,” the email said. “If approved, nothing will prevent future General Assemblies from giving away local tax dollars and disregarding land use and tax policy decisions that belong to local governments. And, for the record, HB 1204 does not obligate the Commonwealth to reimburse local governments for the resulting lost revenues.”
The state Senate’s Finance Committee is expected to discuss the legislation at a hearing Tuesday morning.
At its meeting Saturday, two County Board members supported advertising a higher property tax rate, based on the risk of lost tax revenue from the bill. A majority of the Board, however, voted against raising the rate.
Arlington County’s property tax rate will not be increasing in Fiscal Year 2019, though many homeowners will be paying higher taxes overall.
The Board advertised a tax rate of $1.006 per $100 in assessed value, including the stormwater tax, which is unchanged from the current fiscal year and in line with County Manager Mark Schwartz’s recommended budget. Even if the rate stays the same when the Board adopts its final budget on April 21, taxes for homeowners will be going up.
“Schwartz pointed out that even without a tax rate increase, the average Arlington homeowner will see an increase in taxes and fees of $297 a year, a 3.5 percent increase over taxes and fees in FY 2018,” according to a county press release. “The increase is due largely to the 3.8 percent increase in residential property assessments in Calendar Year 2018.”
The vote was 3-2, with Chair Katie Cristol and Board members John Vihstadt and Erik Gutshall in favor, and Vice Chair Christian Dorsey and Board member Libby Garvey opposed. Dorsey and Garvey advocated for an extra half cent in the tax rate, citing state legislation that could reduce Arlington’s tax revenue by around $2 million.
During a public comment period, school advocates called for a higher advertised rate, which could provide more money for the Arlington Public Schools budget.
More from the county press release:
The Arlington County Board today voted to advertise no increase in the tax rate for Calendar Year 2018. The Board’s action came after the County Manager proposed a Fiscal Year 2019 Budget that requires cuts in services and staffing to close an estimated $20.5 million revenue-expenditure gap within the existing tax rate.
“The demands on our budget are growing, and with continuing challenges in our office vacancy rate, our revenues are not keeping pace,” Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol said. “The Board, with the community, will spend the next two months evaluating and prioritizing how to deliver quality services within our existing tax rate.”
As cost pressures from Metro and new schools grow, Cristol warned, the Fiscal Year 2020 and 2021 budgets will require additional fiscal discipline.
“Tough choices lie ahead for our community,” she said. “But by taking these steps now to rebalance in County government spending, we aim to ensure Arlington’s fiscal sustainability in the years ahead.”
The Board voted 3 to 2 to advertise a real estate tax rate of $1.006, (including stormwater tax,) per $100 of assessed value, the same as the Calendar Year 2017 tax rate. Cristol and Board Members John Vihstadt and Erik Gutshall voted yes and Vice Chair Christian Dorsey and Board Member Libby Garvey voted no, saying they preferred to advertise a tax rate of $1.011 per $100 of assessed value.
“Arlington is at risk, with legislation pending in Richmond, of losing nearly $2 million in revenue that will affect both the County government and Schools budgets,” Dorsey said. “Revenue reductions of that magnitude will require eliminating essential programs and services, or raising the tax rate. Advertising a slightly higher tax rate would have allowed the Board to engage with our community on the best way to meet this potential fiscal challenge.”
By law, the County can adopt a real estate tax rate equal to or lower than what is advertised, but cannot adopt a higher rate. The Board also voted to advertise higher rates for some fees.
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.
Career Center Redevelopment Could Be Big for Pike — County and school officials are moving forward with a redevelopment of the Arlington Career Center site, which holds the possibility of helping to shape the future of Columbia Pike. “We see this as a huge opportunity to create a crown jewel of Columbia Pike. The only question is the amount of money that might be invested,” said Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization Executive Director Cecelia Cassidy. [InsideNova]
N. Va. Real Estate Continues Upward Trajectory — As illustrated by a table showing the past four decades of Northern Virginia real estate sales and average prices, the local real estate market has been on a long-term upward trend. Last year continued the trend, with a 4.1 percent increase in prices and a 6.9 percent increase in total sales. [InsideNova]
Five Guys at DCA Closed for Renovations — The Five Guys burger restaurant in Terminal C of Reagan National Airport is reportedly closed, temporarily, for renovations. [PoPville]
Some Experts Say Prepaid Property Tax Will Be Deductible — Don’t ask for a refund of your prepaid property taxes, say some tax experts. Despite the IRS stating that taxes prepaid to jurisdictions like Arlington County will not be deductible on your taxes this year, before a cap on state and local tax deductions goes into effect, some experts believe that legal challenges to the IRS determination will prevail. [Washington Post]
Applications Accepted for ‘Neighborhood College’ — “Learn how to become a neighborhood advocate and effect change through Arlington County’s free Neighborhood College program, which meets on eight consecutive Thursday evenings, beginning April 12, 2018.” [Arlington County]