Peter Chang Fast Casual Restaurant in Arlington — Chef Peter Chang, who has a large following in Northern Virginia, is in lease negotiations for the Oriental Gourmet space at 2503 N. Harrison Street. Chang hopes to open Peter Chang Wok, envisioned as a fast casual Chinese restaurant. Chang only plans to make “a few cosmetic changes” to Oriental Gourmet, which is still open, after taking over the lease. [Washington Post]
Cherrydale Plan Passes — Cherrydale has a new Neighborhood Conservation plan. The plan, approved by the County Board on Tuesday, calls for protecting trees, ensuring sidewalks are wide enough for strollers and those with disabilities, timely utility maintenance, more daycare opportunities and infrastructure for residents to age in place. [Arlington County]
Top County Staff Gets Raise — The Arlington County Board on Tuesday voted to give a 3.4 percent raise to the three county employees it’s permitted by law to hire directly: County Manager Barbara Donnellan, County Attorney Stephen MacIsaac and Clerk to the County Board Hope Halleck. The annual salary for Donnellan — who’s in charge of the county government and its more than 3,800 employees — will increase to $269,742. [InsideNova]
Abundance of Busted Pipes — This week Arlington County firefighters have responded to a steady stream of calls for busted water pipes in buildings around the county. “Please make sure you know where your water shut off is in case it happens to you,” the fire department tweeted. [Twitter]
Abingdon Street House Fire — Firefighters extinguished a small fire in the basement of a home on the 100 block of N. Abingdon Street on Wednesday morning. One person had to flee the home, reportedly while only wearing shorts and a t-shirt, but no injuries were reported. [Twitter]
Court Ruling May Cost Arlington Millions — A ruling by the Virginia Supreme Court on a tax dispute in Arlington County may cost Arlington and other Virginia localities millions of dollars in lost business license tax revenue. The court ruled that companies with offices in multiple states may deduct certain out-of-state earnings from their license tax. [Washington Post]
GW Baseball Blanks Georgetown — In a chilly game at Arlington’s Barcroft Park that we previewed Wednesday, the George Washington University baseball team defeated Georgetown in a 3-0 shutout. [GW Sports]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
The Board advertised a rate of $1.011 per $100 of assessed value, 1.5 cents above the current $0.996 rate.
By advertising the higher rate, the Board has given itself the flexibility to raise the rate should it choose to do so, despite County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s recommendation (and the Board’s guidance) of keeping the tax rate steady.
The advertised rate is the highest rate the Board may set when it finalizes its Fiscal Year 2016 budget in April.
“The Manager has put forward her budget, which complies with our direction. The County Board’s work now begins,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a statement. “This advertisement sets the stage for a Board and community deliberation about revenue and expenditures.”
“While no one on the County Board wants to see tax rates increase, we believe that having flexibility at this point in time is necessary as we hear from the community, scour the budget for savings, evaluate programs and monitor economic circumstances,” Hynes continued. “Our final goal is to arrive at a sustainable, balanced budget that best serves all Arlingtonians.”
Even if the tax rate were to remain the same, the average Arlington homeowner’s annual tax bill would increase $281 to $7,567, due largely to a rise in residential property assessments.
The budget keeps the county’s current real estate tax rate — of $0.996 per $100 in value — the same, but would result in a net tax hike for homeowners thanks to property assessment increases.
The county’s real estate tax base has increased 3.4 percent, thanks largely to a 4.9 percent increase in single family home assessments and a 4.7 percent increase in apartment building assessments. (New construction added over 0.7 percent to the base.)
The average Arlington homeowner will pay $7,567 — an extra $23 per month, or $281 per year — in total county taxes and fees under the proposed budget.
For owners of Arlington office buildings, which have experienced record levels of vacancies thanks in part to BRAC, taxes will go down. Office assessments decreased 4.5 percent, while hotel assessments decreased 4.7 percent.
Donnellan says she was able to balance the budget and close a forecasted $4 million budget gap without making any formal cuts. Healthcare and retirement costs were lower than expected and some “efficiencies” were found in the budget, she said.
“I think Arlington have been really fortunate,” Donnellan said of the budget, which she was able to balance without significant cuts despite the high office vacancies.
No changes to personal property, stormwater, business improvement district or business license taxes have been proposed. While there’s no change proposed in the household solid waste rate, Donnellan does propose a 1.8 percent increase in the water/sewer rate. Some parks and recreation fee changes have been proposed, including reductions in the rates for aquatics and gymnastics programs.
While not in her base budget, Donnellan included an optional slate of cuts for the Board to consider. The “budget reduction options” include $4.1 million in cuts and savings in various parts of the budget, including:
- Closing Artisphere, but reinvesting half of the $900,000 in annual savings into the county’s Cultural Affairs program (last year Artisphere was funded with $1.8 million in county funds, half of which were designated “one-time” funds.)
- Converting Metrobus 3A service in Arlington to less expensive ART bus service
- Consolidating an elementary after-school program with Arlington public schools
- County vehicle fleet reductions and utility savings
- Publishing one fewer Citizen newsletter per year
- Reductions to bike and pedestrian programs
- Reductions to employment services programs in the Dept. of Human Services
- Reductions to the community energy program
- Reductions to planning resources
- Reductions to tree planting
- Reductions to library materials
- Reductions to urban agriculture
- Eliminating a proposed increase in funding to courts and constitutional officers, meant to offset state cuts
Donnellan said her suggested cuts wouldn’t result in “totally outraged” community members, but would likely receive some push back from “interested parties.”
“They’re not core services in the sense of how we deliver day-to-day business,” Donnellan said of the proposals.
At $1.156 billion, Donnellan’s budget is a 0.7 percent increase over last year’s $1.15 billion adopted budget. The proposed budget includes a $710.9 operating budget for the county government. The remainder would go to Arlington Public Schools, which will see an overall funding increase of $13.2 million, or 3.1 percent.
APS Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy will proposed his Fiscal Year 2016 budget tonight.
Arlington’s residential real estate assessments rose by 4.9 percent on average for 2015, but some of Arlington’s lowest-income neighborhoods, which can least afford the corresponding rise in property taxes, are experiencing the biggest spikes.
According to the trend map (left) provided by the county’s Department of Finance, the area hit hardest by the assessment rise was the southwestern-most part of the county, from Columbia Pike to the border with Alexandria (area 10).
The average assessment for this area rose 11 percent, from $362,527 to $402,404. Homes in this area were the least valuable on average in the county last year and, despite the $40,000 jump, are the least valuable this year. If the tax rate remains at around one dollar per $100 of assessed value, the owners of houses in this area will pay about $400 more on average this year than last year.
The area with the second-least valuable homes in the county is area 8, which includes the Columbia Heights West, Barcroft and Glencarlyn neighborhoods. The average assessment rose 9 percent in this area, from $388,215 to $423,115, or an average increase of about $350 in property taxes this year over last.
By contrast, the wealthiest area in Arlington — area 3 in the northernmost part of the county — experienced almost no rise in assessments. The average home was valued at $1,011,423 last year and $1,014,566 this year, a 0.3 percent increase.
The full list of changes, with area numbers corresponding to the above map:
- Area 1: $713,202 in 2014; $748,523 in 2015; 5.1 percent increase
- Area 2: $810,380 in 2014; $853,100 in 2015; 5.3 percent increase
- Area 3: $1,011,423 in 2014; $1,014,566 in 2015; 0.3 percent increase
- Area 4: $646,590 in 2014; $683,000 in 2015; 5.6 percent increase
- Area 5: $698,305 in 2014; $710,175 in 2015; 1.7 percent increase
- Area 6: $514,552 in 2014; $551,594 in 2015; 7.2 percent increase
- Area 7: $554,480 in 2014; $598,880 in 2015; 8.0 percent increase
- Area 8: $388,215 in 2014; $423,115 in 2015; 9.0 percent increase
- Area 9: $410,274 in 2014; $438,993 in 2015; 7.0 percent increase
- Area 10: $362,527 in 2014; $402,404 in 2015; 11.0 percent increase
- Area 11: $524,082 in 2014; $553,954 in 2015; 5.7 percent increase
Ebbin Bill to Return Checks As Tax Refund Option — State Sen. Adam Ebbin has proposed a bill that would force the state to start using paper checks again for tax refunds. In 2012 Virginia budget eliminated paper check refunds, allowing residents to get their refund either via electronic transfer or pre-paid debit card. Ebbin unsuccessfully proposed a similar bill last year. [InsideNova]
Favola Hate Crime Bill Fails — A bill that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the definition of hate crimes in Virginia has failed. The bill was proposed by state Senator and former Arlington County Board member Barbara Favola. [Associated Press]
MLK Books for Kids at Library — The Arlington Public Library blog has some recommendations for books that can introduce the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. to children. [Library Blog]
Flickr pool photo by Brian Allen
FBI Looking for Serial Bank Robber — The FBI is seeking information on a serial bank robber who hit a Capital One Bank in District Heights, Md. in May and the Wells Fargo in Courthouse last September. “In both robberies, the unidentified man displayed a note to tellers demanding money and threatening a violent attack against everyone in the bank,” according to the FBI. [Federal Bureau of Investigation]
Tag Readers Brought Arlington $744,000 — The Arlington County Treasurer’s Office was able to bring in $744,000 in unpaid taxes thanks to use of automatic license plate readers. That’s up 54 percent from last year. [InsideNova]
Rape Prevention Certification for Jail — The Arlington County Detention Facility has been recognized as meeting new federal Prison Rape Elimination Act standards. The jail is the first in the D.C. area to receive the certification. “This certification is a significant recognition of what we focus on every day — operating a safe and secure jail for our inmates and staff,” Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur said, in a statement. [Arlington County]
Dems Back Special Election Candidates — At its meeting last night, the Arlington County Democratic Committee formally nominated Carla de la Pava for treasurer and endorsed Nancy Van Doren for School Board. Both candidates are running in special elections to take place at the same time as the November 4 general election. [InsideNova]
Possible Attempt to Resurrect Arlington’s Tourism Tax — Two candidates looking to fill the seat of Del. Bob Brink both said at a recent debate that they would introduce legislation to bring back Arlington’s tourism surtax on hotel bills. Democrat Richard “Rip” Sullivan and Republican David Foster both favor the tax, which had been in place for 21 years until it lapsed in 2011, due to anger over the County Board suing the state and federal governments over high occupancy toll lanes. [InsideNova]
Arlington Man Wins Axe Throwing Competition — Arlington resident Christopher R. Miller won the 2014 Lizzie Borden Axe Throwing competition in Falls Church. He is the brother-in-law of last year’s winner. [Falls Church News-Press]
From Friday, Aug. 1 to Sunday, Aug. 3 eligible purchases will be exempted from Virginia’s sales tax, which is 6 percent in Northern Virginia. To be eligible, each school supply item must be $20 or less and each article of clothing or footwear must be $100 or less.
Generally, computer equipment, clothing accessories, protective equipment and sporting goods are not exempt from the tax.
From May 25-31, certain emergency supplies that cost less than $60 — a list that includes batteries, flash lights, rope, duct tape, bottled water and cell phone chargers — are exempt from sales tax at all Virginia retailers. Portable generators that cost less than $1,000 are tax exempt, as are gas-powered chainsaws that cost less than $350.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced today that it anticipates three-to-five hurricanes to hit this season, and one or two “major” hurricanes. The National Weather Service is anticipating a “below normal” hurricane season, but that doesn’t mean NWS scientists aren’t urging caution.
“The prediction of a below normal hurricane season should not be taken to mean Virginia won’t be impacted this year,” said Bill Sammler, NWS warning coordination meteorologist, said in a press release from Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D). “Let’s all remember that it only takes one storm to cause severe damage and even loss of life. Everyone should get ready now for this hurricane season.”
State officials are urging residents to purchase flood insurance, saying “an inch of water in a small home can lead to more than $10,000 in losses.” The governor’s office is recommending families have at least a three days’ supply of bottled water, plenty of nonperishable food, extra batteries and either a battery-powered or hand crank radio to listen to emergency broadcasts.
The complete press release from the governor’s office, after the jump. (more…)
(Updated at 4:40 p.m.) Two days after the Arlington County Board voted to offset a one-cent tax rate cut by eliminating a pay raise for county employees, the Board has changed course.
County Board Chair Jay Fisette told ARLnow.com Friday afternoon that, after the Board met with representatives from the police and firefighter unions this morning, it decided to cut from other areas to make up the $6.6 million gap in the budget the tax cut will create.
The Arlington County Police Union, the Arlington Police Beneficiary Association and the Arlington Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association (Local 2800) each released statements denouncing the Board’s decision to go against County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s recommendation to keep the property tax rate at 2014’s level of $1.006 per $100 in assessed value — and to pay for it by eliminating pay raises in favor of a “modest” 1 percent Cost of Living Adjustment and a one-time $500 employee bonus.
The decision was made in the days leading up to Wednesday’s budget mark-up, leading the police and firefighters to question the process and transparency of the Board’s budget process.
“Throughout the budgetary process that started in September 2013, there were no discussions by the County Board that indicated that step increases would be eliminated,” Local 2800 said in a statement. “Only now, six days before the vote, have we been informed… We understand that there needs to be a balance and restraint in the current economic times but there also needs to be transparency.”
The APBA said the cut in step increases would have hit twice as hard because the county changed employees’ healthcare plans this year, resulting in increases in premiums as high as 7 percent for some employees.
“Not only is this budget cut targeting employees in one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S., it also was made at the 11th hour, outside of Arlington’s well-accepted and long-established budget process and after the last opportunity for public comment,” the APBA said in a statement.
“It is the opinion of the APBA and Union that this last minute decision is politically motivated as a newly elected County Board Member was just sworn into office,” APBA member Jim Tuomey said in a separate email. “We feel this is a last minute effort for the County Board to try and ‘win over’ the voters by saving a penny on the real estate tax rate at the expense of all County employees and we have no opportunity to be heard at future work sessions with the budget adoption next Tuesday night.”
Fisette said the Board unanimously decided to cut the tax rate “a few weeks ago,” before the April 8 special election that saw John Vihstadt became the first non-Democrat elected to the Board since 1999 by a 57-41 percent margin over Democrat Alan Howze.
The decision to do away with the step increase came as a shock to the employees because it hadn’t been mentioned in any public hearings or meetings. Moreover, Fisette said, it’s rare that the Board goes away from the county manager’s recommendations on compensation. It’s particularly rare that the Board lowers salaries or cuts pay raises, Fisette said. (more…)
The County Board last night directed the County Manager to reduce the tax rate in its Fiscal Year 2015 budget from $1.006 per every $100 in assessed value to $0.996.
That penny corresponds to about $6.6 million in reduced revenue for the county. However, the tax and fee burden on the average Arlington taxpayer will still rise about 4.6 percent, thanks to an increase in property assessments and increases in solid waste and water-sewer fees.
The county plans to use the additional tax revenue on a variety of projects, but much of it will go to Arlington Public Schools and to a “modest” 1 percent cost-of-living adjustment and $500 bonus for county employees.
“The Board’s action provides $432.2 million to the Schools, an increase in base funding of $19.6 million, or 4.7% more than FY 2014, the county said in a press release. “With this budget, Arlington’s support of our students now exceeds $19,000 per pupil — more than any other school district in the region.”
The Board also funded three new School Resource Officers and $8 million for school construction. Other non-school projects the Board committed to funding yesterday include $200,000 in tourism marketing, $1.6 million for the county’s high-speed fiber optic network for businesses, $52,000 for a new sexual assault hotline, $72,606 for a mental health coordinator, $700,000 for costs associated with the opening of the new year-round homeless shelter early next year, and $300,000 for plowing snow from bike trails.
“The Board had to make some tough decisions,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a statement. “In order to give some break to homeowners who have seen their assessments rise, we limited the growth of the County budget, launched no new major initiatives and focused on funding schools and maintaining our core services and existing infrastructure.”
The $200,00 for tourism came at the request of the county’s hotel businesses, which were doubly hurt by a quarter-cent drop in the Transient Occupancy Tax and the lack of business in the fall during the government shutdown.
“I’ve got to thank you for this,” County Manager Barbara Donnellan told the Board. “With the vacancies in the fall, I met with people in the hospitality industry and they were telling me, ‘It’s terrible, we’re going to have to lay people off.'”
At the end of the meeting, new Board member John Vihstadt made a motion to halt all funding that would directly or indirectly go to funding the planned streetcar network along Columbia Pike and in Crystal City for 2014 and 2015. The measure failed 2-3, with Vihstadt joined by Libby Garvey in voting for the motion.
The County Board will officially vote on the budget on Tuesday. The county’s press release on the budget decisions, after the jump.
Arlington Has Highest Tax Burden for the Poor — Arlington County has the highest tax burden for low income people in the D.C. area, according to a new study. In response, County Board Chair Jay Fisette suggested that the higher taxes go to providing more services, like affordable housing and better public schools, compared to other jurisdictions. [WAMU]
Op-Ed: Lower The Tax Rate — Local fiscal watchdog Wayne Kubicki says that the the County Board should reduce the property tax rate by 1.5 cents by utilizing part of the $37.1 million in unspent funds left over from Fiscal Year 2014. Kubicki suggests calling the tax rate reduction a “Vihstadt Dividend.” [InsideNoVa]
National Issues Didn’t Help Dems in Local Race — Democratic County Board candidate Alan Howze and his allies tried to corner opponent John Vihstadt on issues like Medicaid and his past support of Republican candidates. But it didn’t work, and Vihstadt was elected in a virtual landslide, the first non-Democrat on the County Board in 15 years. Concludes “Our Man in Arlington” columnist Charlie Clark: “Superimposing state and national ideological issue tests on genuine local disputes won’t trump voter focus on the individual candidates’ qualifications and clarity of message.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Venture Fund Founder on Crystal City — Paul Singh, founder of the new $50 million Crystal Tech Fund, which will focus its investments on post-seed stage tech companies, talked to a reporter about why he chose to locate the fund in Crystal City. He said Crystal City is an “attractive” location for tech company founders because of Metro access and airport proximity, along with “great restaurants and great living environments.” [Washington Post]
National Airport Cab Fares May Rise — The cost of taking a cab from Reagan National Airport may rise starting in September. The Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is considering raising the dispatch fee for cabs picking up passengers from $2.50 to $3 per trip. The board is also considering a requirement that all cabs accept credit cards. [InsideNoVa]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
(Updated at 10:35 a.m.) One would expect that most demonstrations outside IRS headquarters in D.C. involve calls for lower taxes. This afternoon, however, congressional candidate Del. Patrick Hope (D) held a press conference outside the IRS to call for higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
Hope, who’s one of 10 Democratic candidates running for the congressional seat of the retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), said he supports the budget put forth by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which raises taxes on Americans making more than $250,000 per year and creates a new, higher tax bracket for those making more than $1 million. It would also close corporate tax loopholes and tax individuals making more than $100 million annually at 48 percent.
The budget also would eliminate the tax difference between long-term capital gains income and regular income from salaries and wages. It also would reverse the effects of the sequester, which would mean more jobs for federal workers. Hope circulated a petition trying to draw support for what he calls the “Millionaire’s Tax,” and said he gathered 33,000 signatures.
A tax hike on the wealthy “solves our revenue problem very simply, by bringing in more revenue,” Hope said. “Our future is at stake in the upcoming Congress. Will we pass a grand bargain that cuts our social safety net? Or will we close the loopholes and demand the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans pay their fair share? That’s what the 2014 election will be about all over the United States — and that is where we have our biggest differences in our primary in the 8th District.”
The higher tax rate could hit residents of the district Hope seeks to represent particularly hard. Arlington has consistently ranked among the five richest counties in America in recent years, even landing at No. 1 by some metrics. Hope’s campaign, however, argues that a relatively small number of Arlington residents are in the very high income bracket that would be impacted by the Millionaire’s Tax.
Hope, a resident of Arlington’s Buckingham neighborhood, also released his tax returns and called upon his opponents in the June 10 congressional primary to do the same. Hope, who works as a healthcare attorney in addition to his part-time duties as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, earned $231,197 last year — $197,621 from work as a lobbyist for a nonprofit healthcare association, $28,176 from the Commonwealth of Virginia and $5,400 from Johns Hopkins University. He paid $38,645 in federal taxes, or 16.7 percent.
“Transparency is something that is very important in politics,” Hope said. “The people we seek to represent deserve to know everything about us.”
Lubber Run Neighbors Rally Against Housing Proposal — Those who live around the Lubber Run Community Center showed up to the Saturday Arlington County Board meeting to rally against a proposal to use the public land around the community center for affordable housing or a new school. The residents also asked the Board to approve a renovation to the community center. [Sun Gazette]
Board Approves Expanded ‘Technology Zones’ — The County Board on Saturday approved an expansion of its program of reduced business license taxes for technology businesses in certain “technology zones.” About 5-10 businesses per year are expected to qualify for the tax incentives. [Arlington County]
Avg. Single Family Home Price Tops $900,000 — The average sale price of a single family home in Arlington hit $913,677 in March. That’s up 11.7 percent year-over-year. The average townhouse sale price, meanwhile, was $449,202 and the average condo was $515,000. [Sun Gazette]
Arlington Educators Honored — Two Arlington educators, Glebe Elementary principal Jamie Borg and Kenmore Middle School teacher Cassidy Nolen, are among the recipients of the Washington Post’s annual education awards. [Washington Post]
Air Force Research Office to Remain in Arlington — After considering a move to Dayton, Ohio, the Air Force has decided to keep its Office of Scientific Research in Arlington. The decision was made after Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, and Rep. Jim Moran, pressed the Air Force to abandon the relocation proposal. The office employs about 170 people. [PR Newswire, Dayton Business Journal]
Arlington Runner Wins Marine Corp 17.75K — Arlington’s Kelly Swain was the top female finisher at the Marine Corps 17.75K race in Prince William County over the weekend. Swain, 28, finished the 11.03 mile event in 1:14:02. The 17.75K is a precursor to the Marine Corps Marathon, which starts and ends in Arlington. The sold-out race will take place this year on Oct. 26. [Army Times]
Flickr pool photo by J. Sonderman
Torrez Murder Trial Begins — The murder trial of Jorge Torrez, the ex-Marine accused of killing Navy petty officer Amanda Jean Snell on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, has gotten underway. Torrez is already serving multiple life sentences after being convicted in Arlington of rape and numerous other charges. [Washington Post]
Anti-Streetcar Group Blasts County Study — The group Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit has released a list of the “top 15 reasons” a county-funded study on the costs and benefits of a streetcar system is “another waste of taxpayers’ money.” AST says the study is biased and lacking in original research. [Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit]
Arlington Named One of the Worst Rental Investments — Those who invest in rental properties in Arlington only receive a 5 percent return on their investment, making it No. 11 on the list of worst markets for returns for landlords. That’s according to a list compiled by the firm RealtyTrac. [Washington Business Journal]
Authors to Speak at Central Library — Acclaimed authors Ann Beattie and Richard Ford will speak at Arlington Central Library this month as part of the annual Arlington Reads initiative. The Arlington Reads theme this year is “Dazed and Confused: Two Great Writers on Boomer Angst.” Beattie will speak at Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) on April 10 and Ford will speak on April 24. [Arlington County]
Civic Federation Calls for Tax Cut — The Arlington County Civic Federation voted yesterday to recommend a 3-cent or more cut in the county’s property tax rate. The rate currently stands at $1.006 per $100 in assessed value. One civic federation delegate said the group’s vote sends a message to county government: “Rein it in a little bit.” [InsideNoVa]