Arlington County Board Adopts $1.3 Billion FY 2021 Budget

Published on April 30, 2020

The Arlington County Board today adopted a $1.3 billion balanced General Fund Budget for Fiscal Year 2021 that reflects the novel coronavirus's impact on County revenues and priorities and includes no increase in the tax rate for Calendar Year 2020.

"In just three short months, our budget priorities have been upended," Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said, "and we know that the budget we adopted today will likely need revision in the coming months. Our focus in the coming year will be on supporting residents and small businesses hit hard by the economic fallout of the pandemic, preserving essential services and maintaining a strong financial foundation."

Noting the uncertainty surrounding revenues and expenditures in FY 2021, The Board approved a $10.2 million contingent fund that includes $2.7 million for housing grants, permanent supportive housing, emergency food assistance, and other emergency needs and $7.5 million to assist small businesses and nonprofits, aid service delivery recovery, provide employee support, and offset any further revenue loss.

The budget reflects an estimated loss of $56 million in anticipated revenue in FY 2021, resulting in a loss of $34 million for County government and $21.6 million for Arlington Public Schools. The projected losses are in sales, meal, business license and transient occupancy taxes, Parks & Recreation fees, development fees, parking meter & parking ticket revenue, and more.

The Board voted 4 to 0 to adopt the budget, with no increase in the Calendar Year 2020 tax rate. The tax rate will remain at $1.026 (including the sanitary district tax) per $100 of assessed real estate value. Because assessments increased, the average homeowner, with a home valued at $686,300 will see an increase in the taxes and fees they pay the County, up from $9,023 in FY 2020 to $9,399 in FY 2021.

The budget maintains current levels of service, foregoes salary increases for all staff, continues a hiring freeze put in place in March, places many projects on hold, delays the opening of the Lubber Run Community Center and Long Bridge Park Fitness & Aquatics Center until Fiscal Year 2022 and uses $4.0 million in funds from the Stabilization Reserve to close the gap between revenues and expenditures.

$524.6 million will be transferred to Arlington Public Schools for its FY 2021 Budget, a slight increase over the FY 2020 ongoing funding level.

Guidance to the Manager

In adopting the budget, the Board included guidance to the County Manager to develop a plan in the early months of Calendar Year 2021 that would identify, quantify and develop strategies to address food insecurity in Arlington, with an emphasis on child hunger. The Board also provided guidance to the Manager on curbside food waste collection. The Manager is to make progress toward the potential launch of such a service in Fiscal Year 2022, in keeping with the County's 2015 Zero Waste Resolution's goal of diverting 90 percent of solid waste from landfills and incineration in the coming decades.  Steps the Manager is to take include developing estimates of start-up costs and ongoing increases in the Household Solid Waste Rate that would be entailed to offer the service, to begin public engagement around the proposal ahead of the FY 2022 budget adoption.

Garvey thanked the Manager and County finance and budget staff for having quickly reworked the Proposed Budget the Manager presented to the Board in February to reflect the need to fund the County's emergency response and the rapidly changing economic situation.

"We have entered uncharted waters for this community and our nation," Garvey said. "Nothing that any of us have faced before has had the sort of immediate, intense impact on our economy that COVID-19 has had. I commend the staff for responding with a budget that is both compassionate and fiscally responsible. As the Manager has said, this budget, by creating more financial flexibility, will serve as a bridge to our recovery."

With Arlingtonians following the Governor's Stay-at-Home Order, the Board held the Budget and Tax Rate hearings virtually, with dozens of residents participating. Hundreds of comments on the budget were made part of the public record and considered by the Board during its deliberations. The new fiscal year begins on July 1, 2020.

To read the staff reports on the FY 2021 Budget items, visit the County website.

View the County Manager's Revised Proposed FY 2021 Budget Overview Presentation.

Learn more about the FY 2021 Budget development process.