Former Mansion Owner is In Jail — Rodney Hunt, the man who once owned the $23 million Arlington mansion that’s being used to throw large parties (and which was recently sold at a foreclosure auction), is currently in the Arlington County jail. Hunt was ordered to spend 90 days in jail earlier this month for violating his parole. An attorney says Hunt doesn’t know anything about the parties. [Washington Post]
Tourists Can’t Handle the Heat at the Cemetery — Anytime it gets sufficiently toasty outside, medical calls to Arlington National Cemetery become frequent. Tourists at the cemetery regularly suffer heat-related ailments that require paramedic dispatches during the summer. The cemetery is advising visitors to wear sunscreen and bring a bottle of water during the warm weather months. [Twitter]
Airbnb Is Costing Arlington Tax Revenue — Arlington County has yet to figure out a good way to get those renting out their homes on Airbnb to pay the county’s 5.25 percent lodging tax, which is paid by hotels and should be paid by Airbnb hosts. “Very few of the folks who should be paying taxes have stepped up to fork over the money,” reports Michael Pope. [WVTF]
Art Murals in Crystal City — Crystal City has more than two dozen outdoor art murals, implemented by the Crystal City Business Improvement District. The murals are part of an effort to “visually revitalize the area,” which is noted for being something of a concrete canyon. [Curbed]
Teacher Salaries By School — A list shows the average teacher salary, by school, at Arlington Public Schools. Topping the list is Kenmore Middle School, at $80,411. At the bottom of the list is the Arlington Mill high school program, at $61,731. [Patch]
APS Finance Chief Wins Award — Leslie Peterson, the assistant superintendent for finance and management at Arlington Public Schools, is one of three officials in the U.S. to receive the 2016 Pinnacle of Achievement Award from the Association of School Business Officials International. [InsideNova]
Amtrak Police Chief Shared Apartment With ‘Alleged Boyfriend’ — Amtrak Police Chief Polly Hanson, who’s under investigation for fraud and conflict of interest, reportedly shared an Arlington apartment with her “alleged boyfriend,” a senior director at a contractor that Amtrak hired under Hanson’s supervision. The two also are said to have co-owned a condo in Dewey Beach, Del. [Washington Post]
Some Receiving Duplicate Tax Bills — A large number of Arlington homeowners have received duplicate tax bills from the county. “As you can imagine, we have heard from many concerned taxpayers today,” Treasurer Carla de la Pava told the Sun Gazette. [InsideNova]
Brutal Beating Still Unsolved — The 1965 beating of a 19-year-old woman in her Rosslyn area apartment is still an unsolved, open case. The woman, Brenda Sue Pennington, survived but never fully recovered, living in a nursing home and depending on Medicare until her death in 2007. [Falls Church News-Press]
Beyer Questions New Social Security Requirement — Those who want to access their Social Security information online now must have a text-enabled cell phone as part of a new security measure. That has led to protests from seniors who don’t own a cell phone — and Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) agrees with them, saying they “deserve the convenience of checking their earnings and benefits online.” [Patch]
Medium Unsure If TV Series Will Live On — Monica Ten-Kate, the TV medium who communes with dead people and whose family lives in Fairlington, says in an interview that she’s not sure whether her cable TV reality series will be renewed for a third season. [Northern Virginia Magazine]
The tax holiday — which runs from early Friday morning to 11:59 p.m. Sunday — is aimed at helping families doing back to school shopping along with encouraging Virginians to prepare for the hurricane season.
Online purchases of qualifying items are also tax-exempt as long as orders are placed and paid for during the tax holiday and the items are available for immediate shipment.
“This sales tax holiday will make items that help families prepare for the school year or for a potential emergency more affordable,” said Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, in a statement. “It is my hope that shoppers will use this time to get their children the items they need to succeed in school, as well as stock up on the essentials that may come in handy during a hurricane or other emergency where electricity or clean water may be unavailable for an extended period of time.”
Tax exempt items include:
- Most school and office supplies, such as pens, loose-leaf paper, scissors, binders, backpacks, and construction paper, priced at $20 or less.
- Clothing and footwear, priced at $100 or less per item or pair.
- Batteries, flashlights, bottled water, tarps, duct tape, fire extinguishers, cell-phone chargers, smoke detectors, buckets, rope, and first aid kits, priced at $60 or less.
- Gas-powered chainsaws, priced at $350 or less, and chainsaw accessories, priced at $60 or less.
- Portable generators, priced at $1,000 or less.
- Energy Star-labeled dishwashers, washing machines, air conditioners, ceiling fans, light bulbs, dehumidifiers, and refrigerators, priced at $2,500 or less.
- WaterSense-labeled sink faucets, faucet accessories, aerators, shower heads, toilets, urinals, and landscape irrigation controllers, priced at $2,500 or less.
Key Bridge Marriott Lease Sold — The ground lease for the 57-year-old Key Bridge Marriott in Rosslyn has been sold to a luxury hotel and resort operator, leading to speculation that the hotel — Marriott’s longest continuously-operating property — may soon be replaced. [WTOP]
Sales Tax Receipts Nudge Up — Arlington received $39.68 million in sales tax disbursements from the state this year, up 0.2 percent compared to the year prior, pointing to an ever-so-slight increase in retail sales in the county despite some challenges dragging that figure down. [InsideNova]
Arlington to Host Community Conference — Arlington County is hosting the 17th annual Virginia Statewide Neighborhood Conference from Sept. 29-Oct. 1. Hundreds of neighborhood leaders, community activists and government agencies are expected to attend. [Arlington County]
Local Yoga Studio Featured on National TV — Spark Yoga, an aerial yoga studio on N. Pershing Drive in Lyon Park, was featured in a segment on business news channel CNBC with reporter Diana Olick. [CNBC]
Bikes With Roofs — Is the hot summer sun beating down on you during your bike commute? If so, perhaps you can follow the lead of these two local cyclists and attach a canopy to your bike. [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by David Giambarresi
A new working group appointed by the County Manager will be conducting a “comprehensive review” of that program.
The program is currently offered to homeowners age 65 or older, with an annual income of up to $99,472 and household assets (excluding the home itself) up to $340,000. Depending on the income level and assets, the homeowners may qualify for a full or partial exemption. A deferral of taxes until the home changes ownership is available for any portion that’s not exempt.
The County Board included funds in the latest county budget for a review of the program.
“In conducting research for the [Affordable Housing Master Plan], the County found that many low-income senior households on fixed incomes face financial stress related to increasing condominium fee and real estate tax burdens,” said the new Real Estate Tax Relief Working Group charge. “The AHMP’s accompanying Implementation Framework included a recommendation to review the goals and guidelines of the RETR Program, and to consider redefinition of income levels, asset levels, and criteria for exemptions and deferrals.”
In the recent Arlington County Board primary, Board Chair Libby Garvey was criticized by Democratic challenger Erik Gutshall for supposedly “threatening the ability of our most vulnerable seniors to live in Arlington.”
Garvey explained that she wants to lower the eligibility barriers for the tax deferral program. She hinted, however, that the full tax exemption might be under additional scrutiny, as it can “provide quite a windfall” to a homeowner’s heirs once the home is sold.
The working group is tasked with presenting its final recommendations this winter, ahead of the Fiscal Year 2018 budget process.
The full county press release, after the jump.
The Board will consider tax rates and the annual county budget on Tuesday. A staff report published in advance of the meeting suggests that the Board has settled upon a tax rate reduction.
“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 FY 2016 mid-year and third-quarter updates, the County Board, after deliberations, has approved an FY 2017 budget that is balanced at the real estate tax rate of $0.978 per $100 of assessed property value,” the report says.
That will bring the residential tax rate to $0.991 per $100 in assessed value, including the $0.013 stormwater rate.
Despite the rate reduction, the average Arlington homeowner will be paying more in taxes, thanks to a 2.8 percent rise in residential real estate assessments.
“The average Arlington homeowner would pay $5,981 per year in real estate taxes, a $133 or 2.3 percent increase over CY 2015,” county staff writes.
Commercial property assessments this year were deemed flat, “with only 0.7 percent growth from CY 2015 to CY 2016, primarily fueled by a slight decrease in vacancy rates.”
Crystal City Bus-Only Lanes Opening Soon — Bus-only lanes in Crystal City, part of the Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway, are set to open April 17. It’s the region’s first Bus Rapid Transit line. [Washington Post]
Civ Fed Wants Lower Taxes — The Arlington Civic Federation voted Tuesday to call for a one cent reduction in property taxes. The current annual rate is 99.6 cents for every $100 of assessed value. [InsideNova]
Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Visits Today — Anthony Doerr, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “All the Light We Cannot See,” will discuss this best-selling novel at the Washington-Lee High School auditorium from 7-8:30 tonight. The discussion is part of Arlington Public Library’s 2016 Arlington Reads program, the theme of which is “the human displacement of World War II.” [ARLnow]
WW2 Exhibit at Library — In addition to the Doerr event and two other author talks, Arlington Central Library is hosting “an artifact-rich exhibition on Arlington County in World War II. It’s the story of a community undergoing rapid transition from fading farms to new home to the Pentagon, all while sending its young men to fight in Europe and the Pacific. ” [Arlington County]
GMU to Hold Talk With Camille Paglia — On Tuesday, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University’s Arlington campus will be holding a discussion with Camille Paglia, the “cultural critic, intellectual provocateur, and feminist icon.” The discussion will be hosted by GMU’s noted economics professor Tyler Cowen. RSVP is required. [Mercatus Center]
Former Willow Team is Now at the Watergate — Tracy O’Grady, the chef and owner of the former Willow restaurant in Ballston, is now running Campono, an Italian restaurant in the Watergate complex. O’Grady’s husband Brian, who also worked at Willow, is on the Campono team as well. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Police Seek Witness in Pentagon City Investigation — Arlington County Police are trying to find a witness who rendered aid to an injured man found face down in the street in Pentagon City. The incident happened around 9:30 p.m. on February 25, on the 1200 block of S. Eads Street. The 65-year-old man remains in critical but stable condition. [Arlington County]
Group Forms to Oppose Gun Store — Updated at 11:05 a.m. — A group called Act4LyonPark has formed to oppose NOVA Armory, the gun store that’s planning to open on March 26 at 2300 N. Pershing Drive. So far, Act4LyonPark has raised $6,300 to support its activities. The group says that in a recent vote, 88 percent of residents who responded voted for the Lyon Park Citizens Association to take an official stance against the gun shop.
Board to Consider Relaxed Historic Rules for Schools — The Arlington County Board is expected to vote Saturday on a proposal to make it easier for Arlington Public Schools to make changes to schools within local historic districts. The proposal would remove schools from the oversight of the county’s rigid Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board. Facing a school capacity crunch, APS says going through HALRB adds unnecessary delays and costs to projects. [InsideNova]
One Person Filed 6,500 Noise Complaints Against DCA — A single individual is responsible for 6,500 of the 8,670 noise complaints filed against Reagan National Airport last year, according to the airports authority. [WTOP]
Chamber Savors Hotel Tax Victory — With Arlington’s 0.25 percent hotel tax surcharge reinstated, the Arlington Chamber of Commerce is celebrating a long-awaited legislative victory. “Reinstating Arlington’s [Transient Occupancy Tax] was the Chamber’s top priority for the 2016 legislative session, with the funds generated by the additional TOT providing much needed support to ensure that Arlington remains competitive in attracting leisure and business travel,” said Chamber president and CEO Kate Roche. [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]
County Board Work Sessions to Be Broadcast — Arlington TV, the county government’s cable channel, will begin broadcasting County Board work sessions on cable and online this month. First up: the riveting County Board work session on the FY 2017 budget, scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday. [Arlington County]
Meal Delivery Startup Now Serving Part of Arlington — Galley, a D.C.-based meal delivery startup, says it just expanded its delivery area to include Rosslyn, Courthouse and Clarendon.
ACPD Focusing on Heroin Use and Addiction — The Arlington County Police Department is joining other law enforcement agencies around the region in an initiative to try to curb the distribution, possession and use of heroin. For those battling addiction, there are a number of treatment options in Arlington. [Arlington County]
Schneider to Lead Thrive — Former Democratic County Board candidate Andrew Schneider has been named the new Executive Director of Arlington Thrive, effective today. Thrive is a nonprofit that provides same-day financial assistance to residents in crisis.
Board Thanks Legislators for Hotel Tax Bill — The Arlington County Board is offering its thanks to the state legislators who successfully shepherded Arlington’s hotel tax surcharge reauthorization through the Virginia General Assembly. [Arlington County]
ACPD Shrouding Badges for Fallen Officer — The Arlington County Police Department is shrouding its badges to pay respect to Ashley Guindon, the rookie Prince William County police officer who was shot and killed in the line of duty on Saturday. [Twitter]
Tourism Tax Authorization Passes Legislature — With bipartisan lobbying help from County Board member John Vihstadt (I), a measure reauthorizing Arlington’s hotel tax surcharge has passed the Virginia General Assembly. Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) still must sign the bill into law, and Arlington will have to get it reauthorized in two years due to a sunset clause. The tax will help fund Arlington’s tourism promotion efforts. [InsideNova]
Laich Traded to Toronto — Just a couple of days after he left a server a big tip at Don Tito in Clarendon, long-time Washington Capital Brooks Laich has been traded to Toronto. Laich and celebrity fiancée Julianne Hough were often spotted hanging out at Arlington bars like Don Tito and A-Town. [WJLA]
Wakefield on It’s Academic — Wakefield High School was scheduled to compete on an episode of the local TV quiz show It’s Academic on Saturday. [Twitter]
‘Treasure Island’ Reviewed — Arlington-based theater company Encore Stage and Studio has garnered positive reviews for its production of “Treasure Island,” which runs through March 6. [DC Metro Theater Arts]
Shirlington’s ‘Hula Girl’ Makes Mai Tai for Fox 5 — Mikala Brennan, the owner of Hula Girl Bar and Grill in Shirlington, stopped by Fox 5 midday show Friday to show viewers how to make her signature Hula Girl Mai Tai. [Fox 5]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
The Arlington County Board on Tuesday night voted unanimously to advertise a property tax unchanged from last year — $0.996 per $100 of accessed value ($0.983 base tax plus a $0.013 stormwater district tax).
That means that Arlington’s tax rate can only go down when the County Board approves a final Fiscal Year 2017 budget in April. County Manager Mark Schwartz is recommending a half cent reduction in the tax rate.
The average Arlington homeowner will still pay more in taxes than last year, thanks to a 3 percent rise in property assessments. Some county fees are also expected to rise, including a $36.24 per year increase in the household solid waste rate due to the implementation of year-round yard waste collection.
The county press release about the Board’s action and the County Manager’s budget, after the jump.
That’s according to the website SmartAsset, which says that 18-to-34-year-olds in Arlington have a median income of $61,620, the highest in the country.
The bad news is that Millennials in Arlington, by virtue of their high earnings, pay the second-highest taxes of any locality in the U.S. The average person age 18-34 in Arlington pays 26.36 percent of their income as taxes, SmartAsset roughly estimates.
San Francisco is No. 1 on the last, paying 26.84 percent in taxes, while D.C., New York City and Baltimore round out the top five.
The country’s wealthiest millennials live in Arlington. The median income among 18-to-34-year-olds in Arlington is $61,620, highest in the country. That means they also pay the highest federal income taxes. While the state income tax in Virginia is not quite as high as that of California, most taxpayers still pay a top marginal rate of 5.75%. For a millennial in Arlington earning median income, that adds up to over $3,040 in state taxes.
The Arlington County Board today heard a presentation from County Manager Mark Schwartz on his proposed budget. (As of Wednesday night, when this column was written, the details had not been posted online.) It will be the first look at where the Board may be headed for FY 2017. And if history is any guide, it will not be without at least a few minor controversies.
The County Board’s guidance late last year directed staff to prepare a budget that did not raise tax rates. However, it has been the practice of the Board in the past to advertise a tax rate increase even with such guidance.
Some have argued that ongoing concern about the taxes we pay is overblown or somehow anti-government. But longtime homeowners here in Arlington know that our out-of-pocket property taxes over time have increased at a rate much faster than the rate of inflation.
Many ask, as they should, are they getting a good return on their tax dollar? Are potholes being adequately prioritized over gondolas? Is public safety adequately addressed before theater bailouts? And, what exactly is the plan to meet school enrollment increases?
Some may argue it prudent to advertise a higher rate and give the Board options in case revenue estimates fall dramatically over the next two months. The Board will almost certainly call it giving themselves “flexibility.” Flexibility usually means a reason to ignore their guidance and spend more later.
Here are three reasons the Board should advertise a flat tax rate for fiscal year 2017 and entertain the possibility of a rate cut:
1. The Board just added a new audit function as a nod to fiscal responsibility. Why not give the new office a year to make recommendations on changes the Board can make before even entertaining a rate increase?
2. The average homeowner’s taxes are going up even with a flat rate simply because of increased assessments.
3. If the last decade plus of history is any indication, revenues will comfortably exceed estimates – again. The “worst” thing that will happen is the Board will have a few million less on hand to spend at the end of the year in the closeout process.
(Updated at 2:00 p.m.) More money for cops and firefighters, for economic development and for county employees — that’s the message from Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz, who presented his proposed budget to the County Board this morning.
The $1.19 billion budget benefits from a 3 percent increase in overall projected revenues, allowing Schwartz to boost funding to a number of priorities and propose a slight tax rate decrease.
The budget adds $1.6 million for the addition of 19 public safety employees. Among them: eight firefighters/EMTs, six police patrol officers, and four uniformed Sheriff’s positions.
The new firefighters will covert existing three-person fire units to the nationally-recommended staffing level of four per unit. The extra police officers will help reduce overtime and officer fatigue. The extra Sheriff’s positions will address staffing levels at the county jail.
Schwartz allocates $1.5 million in additional one-time funding for Arlington Economic Development’s efforts to bring down the county’s office vacancy rate. Another $400,000 will be used on infrastructure maintenance like streetlight repair and residential concrete maintenance.
One of the biggest proposals in terms of cost is $6.3 million to increase merit-based pay for county employees, boost the minimum wage for permanent employees to $14.50 per hour, boost the county’s Live-Where-You-Work program and replace grade and step plans with an “open range” salary plan.
Arlington Public Schools, which is dealing with a quickly-growing student population, will see an extra $13.2 million — for a total of $464.9 million — in Schwartz’s budget.
The budget includes separate proposals for an extra $6.2 million in projected revenue than originally expected. Among them is a proposal to decrease the county property tax rate by half a cent, to $0.991 per $100 in assessed value, saving taxpayers about $3.5 million — though many will face higher overall taxes thanks to rising assessments and a rising solid waste rate. Other proposals include adding an extra medic unit for the fire department, to address peak demand, and $100,000 to expand the online streaming of public meetings.
While Schwartz did not highlight any specific cuts in the budget, he did propose a “systematic evaluation of programs and services, with the goal of reducing or eliminating programs and staffing, and proposals to eliminate duplication and inefficiencies.”
Schwartz also expects to find hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings via a new early retirement package for county employees. In addition to saving money, the retirement incentives will serve to “renew the county workforce.”
(About 20 percent of county employees are currently of the Millennial generation, but the county workforce is expected to be majority Millennial by 2020, officials say.)
Despite a so-so macroeconomic environment, Arlington County isn’t being forced to make tough budgetary decisions this year, unlike our neighbors in Fairfax County. Schwartz credited Arlington’s business community — which makes up about half of the tax base — for helping to smooth out economic bumps.
“We’re benefitting from our 50-50 split between commercial and residential,” he said.
Schwartz will formally present his budget at the County Board’s upcoming February meeting. The Board will adopt a final Fiscal Year 2017 budget on April 17.
County Board Chair Libby Garvey said there’s still work to be done on the budget, but overall she’s pleased with the county’s direction under Schwartz, who last month was selected to be the county’s permanent County Manager.
“We’re in a good place,” Garvey said this morning. “We’re changing how we do things a bit. It’s exciting.”
In 2014, Arlington had 6 million visitors who spent nearly $3 billion in the County, making Arlington the number one county for economic impact of tourism in Virginia.
This is a substantial boost to our local economy. In just tax dollars alone, tourism revenue generates approximately $81 million in County taxes and $108 million in state taxes per year. Without these revenues, each Arlington household would pay an average of $1,800 each year in taxes to receive the same services.
Tourism also accounts for about 25,000 jobs in Arlington. As the President & CEO of the Chamber, I’ve had the pleasure of working with many in our hospitality industry who work hard every day and reflect positively on our community to those who visit.
Every year the Chamber hosts our Hospitality Awards which recognizes individuals in the industry who go above and beyond. These awards are not for managers or properties, but for the front-line individuals who make a difference – whether it’s the concierge who takes off his own tie and irons it for a guest who spilled mustard on his, or the parking attendant who rescues a guest during a blizzard. These are the people who make Arlington’s first impression on visitors and keep them coming back to our great county.
While our hospitality industry is thriving, its potential to grow has been significantly limited by budget constraints. As the chart below shows, the Arlington Convention and Visitors Service’s budget pales in comparison to our neighboring jurisdictions’ tourism budgets. While the ACVS staff is effective with the resources available, they are severely financially constrained.
More than twenty years ago, the Chamber successfully lobbied the General Assembly for an additional 0.25% Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) surcharge on hotel rooms in Arlington with all revenues to fund tourism. The Chamber has an active Hotel General Managers Committee who were, and continue to be, fully supportive of this. Even with this tax, our hotel room tax rates are extremely competitive, particularly compared to DC. This is a surcharge that pays for itself in additional revenue generated.
The TOT surcharge had a three year sunset clause and was renewed consecutively until 2011 when it lapsed. That lapse had nothing to do with tourism, but with the political climate in Virginia and some legislators’ view of Arlington.
The Chamber is working hard to make sure that politics don’t get in the way of what is not only good for Arlington County, but also good for Northern Virginia and the entire Commonwealth. Reinstating the additional TOT has been the Chamber’s top legislative priority this session. We have worked closely with the entire Arlington delegation to the General Assembly on this issue, with Senator Janet Howell introducing SB160 and Delegate Patrick Hope introducing HB 1147. I, along with our Chair Todd Yeatts and a number of Chamber members, have gone down to Richmond several times for these hearings. At this time SB160 has passed the Senate and HB 1147 passed the House of Delegates just last week.
The Arlington Chamber is hopeful this legislation will be signed into law by Governor McAuliffe and is incredibly optimistic about the impact these additional tourism funds will have not only on Arlington business, but the larger community.