Arlington County Board Votes for No Tax Rate Increase

Published on February 24, 2018

  • Acts after Manager proposes staff, service cuts to close $20 million FY 2019 gap

 

  • Chair Katie Cristol: "The Board, and the community, must spending the next two months evaluating and prioritizing"

The Arlington County Board today voted to advertise no increase in the tax rate for Calendar Year 2018. The Board's action came after the County Manager proposed a Fiscal Year 2019 Budget that requires cuts in services and staffing to close an estimated $20.5 million revenue-expenditure gap within the existing tax rate.

"The demands on our budget are growing, and with continuing challenges in our office vacancy rate, our revenues are not keeping pace," Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol said. "The Board, with the community, will spend the next two months evaluating and prioritizing how to deliver quality services within our existing tax rate."

As cost pressures from Metro and new schools grow, Cristol warned, the Fiscal Year 2020 and 2021 budgets will require additional fiscal discipline.

"Tough choices lie ahead for our community," she said. "But by taking these steps now to rebalance in County government spending, we aim to ensure Arlington's fiscal sustainability in the years ahead."

The Board voted 3 to 2 to advertise a real estate tax rate of $1.006, (including stormwater tax,) per $100 of assessed value, the same as the Calendar Year 2017 tax rate. Cristol and Board Members John Vihstadt and Erik Gutshall voted yes and Vice Chair Christian Dorsey and Board Member Libby Garvey voted no, saying they preferred to advertise a tax rate of $1.011 per $100 of assessed value.

"Arlington is at risk, with legislation pending in Richmond, of losing nearly $2 million in revenue that will affect both the County government and Schools budgets," Dorsey said. "Revenue reductions of that magnitude will require eliminating essential programs and services, or raising the tax rate. Advertising a slightly higher tax rate would have allowed the Board to engage with our community on the best way to meet this potential fiscal challenge."

By law, the County can adopt a real estate tax rate equal to or lower than what is advertised, but cannot adopt a higher rate. The Board also voted to advertise higher rates for some fees. For a complete list of advertised fee rates, see the staff report for item No. 24 on the agenda for the Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018 Regular County Board Meeting.

In his presentation to the County Board during a work session on Thursday, Feb. 22, Schwartz pointed out that even without a tax rate increase, the average Arlington homeowner will see an increase in taxes and fees of $297 a year, a 3.5 percent increase overtaxes and fees in FY 2018. The increase is due largely to the 3.8 percent increase in residential property assessments in Calendar Year 2018.

Manager's Proposed FY 2019 Budget

The Board's action came after County Manager Mark Schwartz formally presented his Proposed FY 2019 Budget to the Board. His proposed budget, with $1.27 billion in General Fund spending, hewed to the budget guidance the Board provided in November, which called for a balanced budget within the existing tax rate.

Schwartz's presentation to the Board marks the start of weeks of intensive review of the proposed budget by the Board, as it combs through the budgets for each department in a series of work sessions, and hears from the community. The Board will hold a public budget hearing at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 3 and will hold a public tax rate hearing at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 5. The Board will adopt the Budget on Saturday, April 21.

Sign up in advance to testify at the public budget hearing/ the public tax rate hearing.

All the budget work sessions will be live-streamed on the County website.

To learn more about the Proposed FY 2019 Budget, and view the Manager's presentation to the County Board, visit the County website