Free Cinco de Mayo Rides — “Offered by the nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP), the 2021 Cinco de Mayo SoberRide program will be in operation beginning at 4:00 pm this Wednesday, May 5, 2021 (Cinco de Mayo) and operate until 2:00 am on Thursday, May 6, 2021 as a way to keep local roads safe from impaired drivers during this traditionally high-risk holiday.” [Press Release]
Extra ACPD Traffic Enforcement — From the Arlington County Police Department: “As part of the regional Council of Governments StreetSmart campaign, officers conducted high visibility speed enforcement along Lee Highway today. With warmer weather upon us, there is increased pedestrian and cyclist traffic in the County. Remember to slow down, obey posted speed limits and remain alert for other travelers.” [Facebook]
School Board Hopefuls On Math Controversy — “With the Virginia Department of Education under attack – fairly or unfairly – for what critics say is an attempt to dumb down math instruction across the commonwealth, the two candidates for the Democratic endorsement for Arlington School Board gave state officials neither a rousing endorsement nor a ringing denunciation in a recent forum.” [Sun Gazette]
Critic Praises Local Restaurant — “Every once in a while, a restaurant comes along that checks off so many boxes, you wonder if it had taken a poll of diners’ wishes. Right now, that restaurant is a place in Arlington that combines a warm welcome with good food in a spot that locals might recall as a former paint store or a chocolate factory… Ruthie’s All-Day.” [Washington Post]
Covid Concerns for Local With India Ties — “Singh, a 28-year-old consultant, walked her dog in her Arlington, Va., neighborhood where people lined up to get inside a rooftop tiki bar and a group pedaled by on a party bike, drinking beer. She returned to her apartment and stayed up until 2 a.m. scouring Instagram for phone numbers of Indians who might have oxygen and getting no replies to a flurry of messages. Singh is among thousands of Americans struggling to help Indian relatives survive a catastrophic coronavirus surge that has caused the health care system to collapse.” [New India Times]
Nearby: Fairfax Co. Lowers Tax Rate — “Fairfax County adopted a budget Tuesday that lowers the residential property tax rate… the tax rate drops by a penny to $1.14 per $100 of assessed value. Prince William County officials also recently shaved a penny from their tax rate, now at $1.115 per $100 of assessed value. Loudoun County lowered its rate by 5 .5 cents, to $0.98 per $100 of assessed value, while Arlington County froze its rate at $1.013 per $100 of assessed value.” [Washington Post]
Last week, the Arlington County Board approved a new budget that holds the current real estate tax rate steady.
In some ways, that’s a win given the fears of a pandemic-caused budget crunch. Tax revenue ended up coming in above estimates and federal funding freed up million in local funds. Instead of making significant budget cuts, as originally feared, the Board was able to add in numerous initiatives, paid for with one-time funding.
The budget maintains the current base real estate tax rate at $1.013 per $100 in assessed property value, a de facto tax hike for most homeowners given that residential property assessments up are 5.6%. Assessments on commercial property, including office buildings, slumped 1.4% this year.
Some called for the Board to lower the property tax rate, as Loudoun County is doing and Fairfax County is considering, “to provide relief to homeowners hit by rising assessments.” In the end, the Board decided to do more rather than less, keeping the tax rate where it is and adding funding for things like housing, hunger, fiscal reserves, and raises for county employees.
Perhaps there is a calculation here, that an expected strong economy will further buoy tax revenue and property assessments over the next year, and that the next (FY 2023) budget is the time to trim the tax rate a bit, rather than now when many are still suffering as a result of the pandemic.
What do you think of the Board’s decision?
Photo by Pepi Stojanovski on Unsplash
The majority of Arlington homeowners will face higher property taxes, after the County Board approved a budget that holds the property tax rate steady.
The Fiscal Year 2022 budget includes $1.4 billion in spending, a 3.5% increase from last year’s budget. Of that, $530 million will go to Arlington Public Schools, which will pass its final budget next month.
Earlier this year County Manager Mark Schwartz proposed a budget that would have only boosted spending by 1.4%, calling it a “transition budget” appropriate for the challenges presented by the pandemic.
The new county budget includes millions in additional expenditures, thanks to higher-than-expected business tax revenue and an expected $46 million in federal funding for Arlington’s local COVID-19 response from the American Rescue Plan, to be split between this year’s and next year’s budgets.
Among the additions, according to a County Board report posted the same day as Tuesday’s meeting:
Increasing the bonus for employees to approximately $900/net ($2,653,965); Fully replenishing the Stabilization Reserve that was utilized to balance the FY 2021 and FY 2022 budgets ($7,841,608); Funding technical support for financial/human resources system ($240,000); Increasing funding for Libraries to support materials collection ($100,000); Supporting tree pruning by shifting cycle from 17 to 9.5 years ($200,000); Providing funding for a vehicle for the Urban Forester position ($55,000); Restoring outreach program recruitment funding for Police Department ($187,350); Funding the purchase and installation of 13 charging stations for electric vehicles to prepare for increase in electric vehicle purchases in the upcoming year ($250,000) and providing supplemental funding of $33,000 to increase the number of electric vehicles purchased in FY 2022 (6 additional vehicles); Funding the County Manager’s Contingent ($2,500,000); Increasing funding for the Affordable Housing Investment Fund, bringing the total in the FY 2022 budget to $16.9 million ($7.9 million one-time and $9.0 million in ongoing); Restoring $2.6 million of PAYG funding, adding $2.0 million for facility renovations, and funding the installation of gender-neutral restroom signage in County facilities ($145,000); Funding Arts Resiliency grants ($50,000); Provide additional support for the Restorative Arlington initiative ($50,000); Maintaining alternative COVID eligibility criteria for existing recipients of housing grants ($1,036,512); Providing additional funding for the airport noise study ($50,000); Arlington Public Schools (APS): one-time funding requests for Summer School Incentive Payments ($605,000) and costs of opening Cardinal Elementary School ($882,940) and the Education Center ($750,000); Funding an analysis of the budget based on Equity Metrics ($50,000); Expanding access to early voting on two Sundays in advance of the November election ($50,000); Providing a one percent salary increase for all employees and shifting pay ranges by one percent for public safety and five percent for general employees ($2,420,332); Funding 1.0 permanent and 3.0 temporary FTEs for the Fire Department’s implementation of the Emergency Triage, Treat, and Transport (ET3) program with costs covered by program revenue ($270,000); Increasing funding to the Lee Highway Alliance by $25,000 to match total FY 2021 funding of $85,500; Purchasing additional databases for small businesses to assist with pandemic recovery ($40,000); Funding redaction software for the body worn camera program for the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office ($33,500); Funding to support prevailing wage administration ($168,600); Funding an additional Urban Forester position for the Department of Parks and Recreation ($105,000); Restoring funding for the Virginia Cooperative Extension ($63,682) and Northern Virginia Conservation Trust ($90,159); Funding additional Police Practices Group recommendations ($90,000); Adding a fifth Court Clerk (1.0 FTE) and an additional Land Records position (1.0 FTE) to the Circuit Court ($87,416); Restoring previous one-time funding with ongoing support to Arlington Independent Media ($70,000); Restoring funding for an Administrative Assistant position in the County Board Office ($90,000); Reducing client’s income contribution towards rent from 40% to 30% for the Housing Grants Program ($487,713)
The budget also includes $2.8 million for some one-time Arlington Public School projects.
“After a lengthy public review process that included work sessions, public hearings, input from residents, employees, boards and commissions, and updated revenue forecasts based on the third quarter update, the County Board, after deliberations, has approved a balanced budget for FY 2022,” says the Board report. “The budget continues funding for core County services and Arlington Public Schools; it provides additional funding for a variety of critical County programs and one-time APS costs related to opening Cardinal Elementary and the Ed Center, summer school incentive payments, and virtual school in the fall.”
The budget maintains the current base real estate tax rate at $1.013 per $100 in assessed property value, a de facto tax hike with residential property assessments up 5.6%. Assessments on commercial property, including office buildings, slumped 1.4% this year.
There was little additional discussion as the Board voted on the numerous individual budget items.
At a recent tax rate hearing, a few people called for the Board to lower the property tax rate, as Loudoun County is doing and Fairfax County is considering, “to provide relief to homeowners hit by rising assessments.” The real estate tax is expected to generate just over $800 million in revenue in Fiscal Year 2022, which starts July 1.
The Board also voted last night to raise the stormwater tax by $0.004 per $100 of assessed value to support stormwater improvements, and to slightly decrease the annual Household Solid Waste Rate from $319.03 to $318.61.
Other highlights of the new budget including affordable housing funding and housing grants; grants for small businesses affected by the pandemic; implementing recommended policing changes, including funding a civilian mental health crisis response team; electric vehicle charging stations and county fleet purchases; raises and bonuses for county employees; and the opening of the new Long Bridge Park Aquatics and Fitness Center and Lubber Run Community Center.
The full county press release about the budget is below, after the jump.
Arlington County’s projected revenue appears sunnier than when County Manager Mark Schwartz first presented his proposed budget for the 2022 fiscal year in February.
The county can attribute this warmer outlook to two sources: the nearly $2 trillion American Rescue Plan and strong business license tax receipts, Budget Director Richard Stephenson said during a public hearing on the tax rate last Thursday. While he did not specify the revenue from the business taxes, Stephenson said President Joe Biden’s relief bill will apportion $46 million to the county.
Combined, the influx of cash could mean funding will be restored to libraries, community centers, Arlington Independent Media and the Virginia Cooperative Extension, for example.
Schwartz’s proposed budget delays the re-opening of Cherrydale and Glencarlyn libraries and reduces support for AIM and VCE. Between 2019-20 and the proposed budget, funding for AIM had dropped by 22%, while the proposed reductions to VCE would require the organization to find new funding sources or reduce its programs. Members of the public spoke in favor of restoring funding to these programs last Tuesday.
Still, Arlington County will be leaning on real estate taxes for the lion’s share, 59%, of its revenue. Specifically, it will be relying on increasing residential real-estate taxes due to rising property values as commercial property assessments drop.
“We’ve experienced some significant reductions to several of our tax revenues and non-tax fees,” Stephenson said. “We were fortunate this past January that real estate assessments came in slightly higher than we were originally projecting. While we experienced a decrease in commercial property assessments, new construction and residential properties increased.”
While property values are rising, Schwartz is proposing to keep the rate flat — at $1.013 per $100 of assessed value — for the upcoming fiscal year. That will mean an overall tax increase for most homeowners.
The County Board is slated to vote on this rate next Tuesday.
Members cannot increase the rate but they could decrease it, which is something that a few Arlington residents told board members they would like to see.
While Arlington has proposed holding its tax rate steady, nearby jurisdictions — including Fairfax County and Loudoun County — have proposed lowering or approved a lower real estate tax rate, said Audrey Clement, who is running as an independent for a seat on the County Board.
“The impetus for tax reductions elsewhere is to provide relief to homeowners hit by rising assessments, even as the pandemic has put a lot of them out of work,” Clement told the board.
She said the county is using falling commercial real estate tax revenue to justify freezing rather than lowering the residential tax rate.
“The county will tell you it can’t afford to reduce the real estate tax rate because the pandemic has drained the commercial real estate tax revenue, but where were your real estate tax rates heading when the county was flush with revenue from corporate tenants?” she said. “They were going up.”
Meanwhile, two residents, William Barratt and Cindy Nelson, both asked the County Board to reduce real estate taxes.
Barratt said the Bluemont Civic Association, of which he is a part, passed a resolution encouraging the board to reduce the tax rate. The homeowner said he and his wife have seen a 15% increase in their taxes in recent years.
“I don’t think this is a wise idea for anyone: poor and rich,” Nelson said. “It’s just not right.”
The stormwater tax rate is set to increase, which Stephenson said will help generate $15.1 million earmarked for stormwater improvements.
Eventually, the county plans to eliminate the stormwater tax completely in favor of a fee based on how much impervious surface covers a given property, Schwartz previously said.
A higher cigarette tax rate is also being proposed that could generate $600,000. Like most of the county’s tax revenue, almost half of that will go toward Arlington Public Schools, Stephenson said.
Images (2-4) via Arlington County
Real Estate Expected to Get Pricier — “Home prices and, for the most part, sales, have continued to rise in the Northern Virginia market in the last year, even despite the pandemic, but the unanswered question is: what will happen in the future? A consensus forecast report from the Center for Regional Analysis and George Mason University and the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors aims to answer that question and, in short, the upward trends will continue.” [WTOP]
Clement Focuses on Taxes — “Frequent Arlington political contender Audrey Clement’s hat is in the ring for 2021, and she’s focusing, at least initially, on ever-spiraling higher tax burdens on county homeowners. ‘I’m running again because Arlington taxes are slated to go up again even as other Northern Virginia jurisdictions’ tax rates are going down,’ Clement said in an e-mail to supporters, formalizing her bid for Arlington County Board.” [Sun Gazette]
Candidate Misses Filing Deadline — Updated at 5:15 p.m. — Local House of Delegates candidate Matt Rogers, who was set to challenge fellow Democrat Del. Patrick Hope, reportedly failed to meet a filing deadline and may not be on the primary ballot as a result. [Blue Virginia]
Teens Encouraged to Join ‘Park Corps’ — “Work alongside Arlington’s natural resource professionals in forestry, wildlife management, education, habitat restoration and more. We’ll get real work done, all while having fun outside, building job skills and making connections with other like-minded students… Applications are due April 30. Applicants must be 16-18 years of age.” [Arlington County]
Credit Union Makes New Hires — “Arlington Community Federal Credit Union announced multiple new hires of key members of the leadership team. Each of these leaders will be responsible for significant priority strategies for the organization.” [ACFCU]
Foreclosed Rosslyn Office Building Sold — “An affiliate of The Meridian Group cast the winning bid of $58.3 million for a Rosslyn office building during Wednesday morning’s foreclosure auction just steps from the Arlington County courthouse… 1500 Wilson checks off many of the same boxes the development firm seeks with its value-add buys. There is about 121,250 square feet of vacant space in the building, and a repositioning to boost occupancy, aided by one of its real estate funds, could be in the cards.” [Washington Business Journal]
County officials are currently hammering out the details for the next fiscal year’s budget, which the County Board is slated to adopt on Saturday, April 17 and which will go into effect on July 1. The proposed $1.36 billion budget, which County Manager Mark Schwartz calls a “transition” budget, includes a COVID-19 contingency fund and $16.4 million in cuts.
And while the pandemic forced some revisions to the current 2020-21 budget, the pandemic has not changed the different buckets of spending by the county — from Arlington Public Schools to the Department of Parks and Recreation — and what proportion of the general fund these sectors receive.
Local taxes represent 83% of Arlington County’s overall general fund revenue. That includes the taxes you pay on real estate, vehicles, restaurant bills, retail sales, hotel stays, and if you run a business, taxes on business or occupational licenses. For next year, local tax revenue is projected to exceed $1.1 billion, increasing only $1.1 million from last year’s adopted budget, according to Arlington County’s 2022 master budget document.
In this year’s budget, about $795 million comes from real estate taxes. Levied on homes as well as apartments and commercial properties, these taxes make up the lion’s share (59%) of general fund revenue.
This year, homeowners should expect to see their bills increasing due to rising property values, although Schwartz is proposing keeping the $1.013 per $100 property tax rate flat, as he did last year. Real estate assessments showed an overall growth of 2.2% with an increase among residential properties of 5.6% and a 1.4% decline in commercial assessments.
Other revenue sources are utility rates for water and sewage; fees, like those set by the parks department; permits and fines; state and federal contributions; and some leftover money after previous budget cycles.
Where does the money go?
The county’s general fund expenditures are divided into three large buckets: county services, schools and the capital fund. In the current budget, the county services bucket — which includes a $48 million contribution to Metro — accounts for $817 million. APS received $524.6 million from the general fund and the capital fund received $3.8 million (the rest comes from carryover balances and bonds).
Excluding schools, of the nine overall departments or sectors receiving county funding, some are almost completely funded by local taxes, while others receive more support from federal and state support or other sources of revenue.
For example, taxes fund about 90% of the budget going toward public safety, which accounts for 11% of the county’s expenses. Within that, local tax support chips in $71 million of Arlington County Police Department’s $72 million budget.
APS to Fully Return to Classrooms in Fall — “Arlington Public Schools will bring all students who choose it back for five days of in-person learning every week starting in the fall, Superintendent Francisco Durán told the school board Thursday.
He emphasized that any families… who want to stay virtual-only will be able to do so, and noted that staffers have already begun to plot out what the remote option will look like.” [Washington Post]
County Still Seeking New Logo Ideas — “Calling all artists, and artists-at-heart! The County will choose a new logo this year that better represents our Arlington community, and we need your help… Submit your logo concept/art by March 14.” [Arlington County]
Fire Breaks Out in Route 1 Median — From Dave Statter: “Watch your cigarettes, matches & ashes. Dry & breezy. A small brush fire on Rt 1 south of 23rd St briefly blocked traffic. @Reagan_Airport MWAA Engine 301 handled it.” [Twitter]
Brooks Basking in the Sunlight — From the Arlington County Police Department yesterday afternoon: “It’s a pawsitively beautiful day in Arlington County! FRK9 Brooks hopes you get out and enjoy the weather!” [Twitter]
Va. Booze Sales Soar During Pandemic — “Virginians bought considerably more liquor in the second half of 2020 than they did during the same period of 2019. That’s according to figures Washingtonian obtained from the commonwealth’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority, which show statewide sales of spirits were up 15 percent over 2019 from July to December of the worst year in recent history.” [Washingtonian]
State Tax Revenue Higher Than Expected — “On a year-to-date basis, collections of payroll withholding taxes — 61 percent of General Fund revenues — increased 1.1 percent, behind the annual forecast of 2.7 percent growth. Sales tax collections — 17 percent of General Fund revenues — increased 6.7 percent through February, ahead of the annual forecast calling for a 4.8 percent increase. Recordation taxes advanced 38.3 percent on a fiscal year basis, ahead of the 24.4 percent annual forecast. Total revenues rose 8.0 percent through February, ahead of the revised annual forecast of 3.0 percent growth.” [Gov. Ralph Northam]
Reminder: Spring Forward This Weekend — “The second Sunday in March is when Daylight Saving Time begins in most areas of the U.S., so in 2021 we’ll ‘spring forward’ one hour and on Sunday, March 14, 2021, at 2 a.m. Be sure to set your clocks ahead one hour before bed on Saturday night!” [Farmers’ Almanac]
Board Advertises Property Tax Rates — “The Arlington County Board today voted unanimously to advertise no increase in the Calendar Year 2021 base real estate property tax rate, citing the toll the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is taking on residents. The Board also voted to advertise a proposed Stormwater tax rate of 1.7 cents per $100 of assessed real property value to fund the full cost of operations and planned capital improvements to the County’s stormwater infrastructure and flood mitigation… The estimated annual impact for the average household with an assessed home value of $724,400 is $123.” [Arlington County]
Snow Falling in Arlington — Updated at 9:10 a.m. — Snow is falling in Arlington, which is just outside of a newly-expanded expanded Winter Weather Advisory. Be careful out there! [Twitter]
Business Owners Talk About Burglaries — “Metry describes the Bluemont neighborhood where his business was burglarized as safe. He doesn’t understand why his business was targeted. ‘The whole register, the iPad, the square scan, all of this was missing,’ Metry said. Surveillance footage captured at neighboring restaurant La Union shows the burglars wearing dark clothing, hoodies, masks and gloves. Jose Zelaya has owned the Mexican restaurant La Union for 21 years. Aside from a random car break-in, he said he’s never experienced any crime like this.” [WUSA 9]
St. Patrick’s Pie at Clarendon Pizzeria — “Colony Grill, Clarendon’s new family-friendly tavern, known for its gracious hospitality and famous ‘hot oil’ bar-style pizzas, will serve a special corned beef & cabbage “Bar Pie”… [f]rom Friday, March 12 through Wednesday, March 17.” [Press Release]
Reminder: Trash Collection Delayed a Day — Due to ice and snow last week, Friday’s residential waste collection will be completed today, shifting this week’s collection schedule by one day. [ARLnow]
Schwartz calls the upcoming Fiscal Year 2022 budget, which is being presented to the County Board Thursday afternoon, a “transition budget.” While modestly increasing spending, his proposal reflects big pandemic-era declines in some key revenue sources.
“This budget provides us a path forward, ensuring we have a strong, resilient County government when we emerge from this pandemic,” he said after a press briefing earlier today.
For starters, the proposed $1.36 billion budget — representing a 1.4% increase in spending — includes a $17.5 million coronavirus contingency fund. This will fund vaccine distribution and testing, eviction prevention, food assistance, and will go toward supporting local businesses.
Meanwhile, Schwartz has identified $16.4 million in cuts to help close what the county describes as a budget shortfall of $26 million, down from what was initially estimated last fall to be a $50 million shortfall. The rest will be made up through one-time funding sources, he said.
The bulk of the cuts come from eliminating 56 vacant positions, which resulted from a voluntary retirement package offered in January and a continuing hiring freeze from last year.
Schwartz proposes keeping the $1.013 per $100 property tax rate flat, as he did last year. Still, the average homeowner will see a tax bill that is 5-6% higher due to rising property values, Schwartz said. Commercial property assessments, by contrast, declined this year.
Homeowners will see an average increase of $29 in stormwater taxes, reflecting a rate hike of 1.3 to 1.7 cents per $100 in property value. The increase will help generate $15.1 million earmarked for stormwater improvements. Eventually, the county plans to eliminate the stormwater tax completely in favor of a fee based on how much impervious surface covers a given property, Schwartz said.
Schools will receive 47% of the tax revenue, or $529.7 million, an increase of $5.1 million over last year.
(Updated on 2/23/21) The pandemic has saved the county money through remote work and online services, which Schwartz said will help fund other programs and services. His budget includes a one-time, $500 bonus for county employees, who will be foregoing merit-based raises.
“Our employees have gone without raises — or a vacation day — for an entire year,” Schwartz said.
After the County Manager submits his proposed budget, the Arlington County Board will vote on an advertised tax rate this Saturday. The Board will be able to ultimately adopt a property tax rate equal to or less than, but not above, the advertised rate.
The Board will then review the budget proposal and conduct a series of work sessions with each county department beginning in March.
There will be two public hearings: Tuesday, April 6, and Thursday, April 8. The final vote on the FY 2022 operating budget is scheduled for Saturday, April 17.
Certain parts of the budget may be revisited, Schwartz said, should additional federal funding become available.
Other highlights from the budget proposal include:
- More racial equity training, money for a Restorative Justice initiative, and more funding for probation, parole and the Public Defender’s Office.
- About $1.5 million to implement several recommendations from the Police Practices Group, especially in transitioning mental health-related work from police officers to clinicians.
- Allowing firefighters to work a shorter week, adding transportation safety officers to the police department, and multiple positions to support the new body-worn camera program.
- The county elections office is proposed to receive additional staff to support mail-in ballots and absentee voting.
- Funding for the opening of the Long Bridge Park Aquatics and Fitness Center and the Lubber Run Community Center
- Increasing the lowest base pay for county employees from $15 to $17 per hour
- Adding Juneteenth as a County holiday
- Delayed re-opening of Cherrydale and Glencarlyn libraries, saving $881,000
- An additional $2.6 million in housing grants, plus $21 million in housing choice vouchers and $8.9 million for the Affordable Housing Investment Fund.
Schwartz’s budget proposal focuses affordable housing efforts on “eviction prevention and direct housing support,” but decreases county funding for Arlington’s affordable housing development fund, as the Washington Business Journal’s Alex Koma noted on Twitter (below).
“4.6% of the County’s operating budget is dedicated to housing and more than 15% is dedicated to safety net services and housing,” a slide from the budget presentation noted.
#ArlingtonVA officials are previewing the 2022 budget now, ahead of a full reveal Saturday.
Of note: the county contribution to its main affordable housing loan fund is getting halved, to $8 mil. Amazon, of course, is chipping in $20 mil on its own, but this is a notable change pic.twitter.com/xDrGoUbuDC
— Alex Koma (@AlexKomaWBJ) February 18, 2021
No APS Return Dates Yet — “Alexandria City Public Schools this week joined a flood of Northern Virginia school systems in setting firm timelines for reopening classrooms, vowing to welcome all students back for in-person learning by mid-March. But in Arlington, school officials aren’t committing to return dates just yet.” [Washington Post]
Summer School Appears Likely — “Gov. Ralph Northam on Friday will announce a plan to extend the school year into summer to allow students to catch up. The announcement will come during an 11 a.m. news conference, Northam said during a Thursday morning interview with Washington Post Live. No details have yet been released. ‘We’re working with our teachers, our school boards, our superintendents. It has to be a top priority,’ he said.” [InsideNova]
Karantonis Running for Reelection — “Although his announcement was temporarily derailed by a snafu too common in the Zoom era, Arlington County Board member Takis Karantonis on Feb. 3 formally kicked off his bid for re-election with comments before the Arlington County Democratic Committee.” [InsideNova]
Napoli Salumeria’s D.C. Location Closing — “The restaurant has decided not to renew their lease at their current location, so they are temporarily closing their Columbia Heights doors as they search for a new DC location. In the meantime, guests can still get the full Napoli Pasta Bar menu at Napoli Salumeria in Arlington starting next week (including dine-in). Napoli Pasta Bar will also offer free delivery for DC residents within a certain radius from Napoli Salumeria.” [PoPville]
Marymount Announces Commencement Speakers — “In mid-May, approximately 975 students will receive their degrees over the course of three days during Marymount University’s 70th annual commencement ceremonies. The newest graduates of the mission-based Catholic university will hear from three distinguished commencement speakers – influential Virginian James Dyke, Jr., entrepreneur and philanthropist Sheila Johnson and business leader Donald Graham.” [Marymount University]
Editorial: No Counterbalance Against Tax Increases — “The government’s Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission effectively has been gelded; the Arlington County Civic Federation is trying to keep up but is not the budget-watching powerhouse it once was; the Arlington County Taxpayers Association effectively died with its leader, Tim Wise; and serious budget discussions almost never even come up within the intra-Democratic nomination contests that determine who will hold elected office.” [InsideNova]
Virginia May Abolish Death Penalty — “Virginia is poised to become the first state in the South to abolish the death penalty, a sign of ascendant liberal political power in a state that has executed more people since the 1970s than any other except Texas.” [New York Times]
The value of homes in Arlington County has soared during the pandemic.
Residential property values in Arlington are up 5.6%, while commercial property values slumped 1.4% from last year, according to newly-released stats. Arlington County is starting the process of mailing the new assessments out to homeowners and commercial property owners.
“Arlington’s overall property tax base grew modestly from last year due to continued residential growth despite a slowdown in some commercial sectors due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the county is saying in a letter to property owners. “Property values increased 2.2% overall in Calendar Year (CY) 2021 compared to 4.6% growth in CY 2020. New construction contributed to 1% of the 2.2 % overall property assessment growth.”
The sharp rise in residential property assessments shows “the continued attractiveness of our Arlington community, even as our businesses and residents face the burdens and challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said County Manager Mark Schwartz. The average value of existing residential properties is now $724,400, up from $658,600 two years ago.
The average value of hotels, meanwhile, plummeted amid the pandemic, while apartment and office buildings increased in value — with the latter propped up by the arrival of Amazon.
“Overall commercial property assessments decreased by 1.4% over the previous year, mainly driven by a double-digit decrease in the hotel sector where operations have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the county said. “Apartment and general commercial (malls, retail stores, gas stations, commercial condos, etc.) property values saw small decreases offset by new construction. After strong growth in CY 2020, apartment property assessments increased by 0.8% overall in CY 2021. General commercial property assessments increased by 0.1% overall.”
“While many office property assessments decreased due to increases in vacancy rates and changing demand for office space, total office property values increased by 0.8% over last year,” the county added. “The overall office market tax base increased, in part, due to the increased presence of Amazon and the related development activity.”
Last year, assessments rose 4.6% on average — 4.9% for commercial properties and 4.3% for residential properties. The big rise in 2021 residential assessments will likely result in another effective tax hike for homeowners.
Last year, Arlington’s property tax rate — $1.026 per $100 in assessed value — was held steady despite the higher property values. This year, budget pressures brought on by the pandemic have prompted the county to warn of the likelihood of both budget cuts and tax rate hikes.
The height of Arlington’s budget season is set to kick off on Feb. 20, with the release of the County Manager’s proposed Fiscal Year 2022 budget. The final budget is expected to be adopted on April 17. The county’s new fiscal year begins July 1.
“The County continues to feel the economic impacts on local revenues, including the slowdown in sales, meals and hotel taxes, as well as cost increases and additional costs related to the pandemic,” the county said in a press release today. “The projected budget shortfall remains at more than $40 million, excluding the needs of the Arlington Public Schools (APS).”