The Arlington County Board on Wednesday directed the County Manager to reduce the real estate tax rate by 1 cent in the Fiscal Year 2015 Budget. The Board's action came during the mark-up for the budget, which the Board is set to adopt during its April 22 meeting.
"The Board had to make some tough decisions," said Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette. "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 budget mark-up includes a real estate tax rate of $0.996 per $100 of assessed value, a 1-cent decrease from the $1.006 rate in Calendar Year 2013 (including the sanitary district tax). This represents a $6.6 million reduction from the budget proposed by the County Manager.County Budget up 3 Percent, Schools funding up 4.7 Percent
The Board made cuts, reallocations and minor additions to the County Manager's Proposed FY2015 Budget, after hearing from the public and vigorously questioning staff during numerous work sessions with each County department.
The Board balanced the budget by limiting the growth of County expenses, while increasing the amount and portion of local funds going to the Schools. Based on the revised real estate tax rate, the County's Budget will increase 3 percent from the FY 2014 Adopted Budget while School funding will increase 4.7 percent.Average tax and fee burden to increase 4.6 Percent
The Board’s action means the overall tax and fee burden for the average Arlington homeowner will be 4.6 percent higher than in 2014, or about $27 a month, a decrease from the Manager's proposed budget. It also ensures that Arlington's real estate tax rate remains the lowest in the region.
This reflects the 5.3 percent increase in the average residential property assessment and a 3.4 percent increase in the water-sewer rate. The household solid waste rate also will increase by 4 percent. Part of that increase will be used to fund year-round collection of yard waste – a service provided by nearly all of Arlington's neighboring jurisdictions.Increased funding for Arlington Public Schools
The Board’s action provides $432.2 million to the Schools, an increase in base funding of $19.6 million, or 4.7 percent more than FY 2014.
The Board maintained the County's commitment to keeping Arlington Public Schools among the nation's finest. 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 supported a 4.7 percent increase in APS base funding, additional funding of $8 million for school construction or other one-time expenses, and added funds for another school clinic aide and three new School Resource Officers.
Strategic Investments with one-time funds
The Board provided funding for several key efforts. Highlights include:
- Economic stabilization contingent ($3 million)
- ConnectArlington, to provide high speed fiber connectivity for Arlington businesses and to accelerate economic development ($1.6 million)
- Tourism marketing ($200,000)
- Continuing Police participation in the regional gang task force ($25,000)
- Numerous social safety net priorities, including $500,000 above this year’s funding for affordable housing; a new sexual assault hotline ($52,000) a mental health coordinator to train first responders and the judiciary ($72,606); and staffing and operating costs of the new Homeless Services Center, expected to open in early 2015 ($700,000)
- Plowing snow from bike trails ($300,000)
- Overtime for additional police to manage pub crawl enforcement ($42,000)
Modest 1 Percent COLA for employees
The Board did not include funding for a merit step increase for staff. However, recognizing that the County workforce has had to do more with less in recent years due to constrained budgets, the Board’s plan provides County employees with a 1 percent cost of living adjustment and provides a $500 bonus to employees in FY 2015. The Board also added two holidays for employees following Christmas and New Year’s as both holidays fall on a Thursday.
Formal adoption of the budget is scheduled to take place April 22. For more information, visit the FY 2015 budget page on the County website.