Arlington Board OKs Tax Hike, Employee Raises
County's $1 billion budget also bolsters tax support for affordable housing programs and restores library hours cut during recession.
The Arlington County Board on Saturday unanimously approved a $1 billion budget that includes a 1.3 cent real estate tax increase.
The budget also bolsters taxpayer investments in four key areas identified by board members — affordable housing, libraries, capital maintenance and employee compensation. It also funds new facilities like a planned year-round homeless shelter, Long Bridge Park, the Mary Marshall Assisted Living Residence and developments at Penrose Square.
The tax hike will cost the average Arlington County homeowner an extra $160 annually. The average assessed value of a home in Arlington is about $520,000.
Trash and recycling fees will be reduced by $32 per household.
"We are fortunate here in Arlington that our financial foundation is strong, even as others across the nation cope with continued economic uncertainty," Chairwoman Mary Hynes said in a statement.
The budget adds $6.7 million in ongoing funding and $2.8 million in one-time dollars to the county's Affordable Housing Investment Fund, or AHIF. That's a small increase from what was on the table earlier this week.
Next year's spending plan also includes a significant ($2.2 million) increase to a rental subsidy program for seniors, people with disabilities and working families with children, according to a county news release. The housing grants program is now funded at $8.6 million.
Going forward, the county will evaluate its existing affordable housing programs and look at potential funding strategies, Hynes stated.
More than 14 percent of the county's rental stock has now been deemed "affordable," according to the county news release.
The budget also includes about $93,000 for tree replacement and watering, $100,000 to combat invasive plants, about $443,000 to restore library hours that were cut during the recession and funds for additional weekend hours to two nature centers.
It includes about $3.9 million for merit step increases for the county's 3,500 employees. This essentially involves shifting the entire pay scale, as the first step will be eliminated and a new step will be added at the top. Employees will receive on average a 2.8 percent raise.
Board members also gave themselves a raise, which combined will cost taxpayers $7,300 a year. Beginning July 1, board members will earn $50,127 annually; the chair will earn $55,140 per year.
Board members approved restoring four positions at the sheriff's office and allocated $60,000 to the Arlington County Police Department to cover overtime expenses associated with patrolling Clarendon.
The board also agreed on $200,000 in one-time funding for a rapid rehousing program, marking the second year local tax dollars have paid for that program launched under the federal stimulus.
A small part of the tax hike was requested by Arlington Public Schools just this week to pay for a state mandate that uses local tax dollars to help bail out the Virginia Retirement System.