- 1.5-cent property tax rate increase dedicated to Metro, Schools
- Cuts made to Manager’s proposed budget
- $7.4 million more in General Fund revenues for Metro
- $23.3 million increase for Schools
- Investments in Columbia Pike, Lee Highway
The Arlington County Board today adopted a $1.25 billion balanced General Fund Budget for Fiscal Year 2018 that includes a one-and-a-half-cent increase in the real estate tax rate for Calendar Year 2017.
“This budget is a compromise and a consensus of the Board, and reflects the values of this community,” said Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette. “The Board agreed to a modest increase in the property tax rate — less than the Manager recommended — because of the extraordinary funding needs of Metro and our public schools. Both Metro and our schools are vitally important to Arlington. We and every other jurisdiction served by Metro are having to increase our contributions as Metro continues to rebuild. And the County must help APS meet the challenge posed by its growing student population. Both investments are investments in our future.”
County Manager Mark Schwartz had proposed a two-cent increase in the real estate tax rate to provide additional funding for Metro and Arlington Public Schools. The Board chose to make cuts and reallocations to the Manager’s proposed budget to keep the increase to one-and-a-half cents per $100 of assessed property value. This will increase the tax rate from the current $0.991 per $100 of assessed value to $1.006 per $100 of assessed value (including stormwater tax).
Fees increasing for household solid waste, water/sewer
The Board also approved increases in several fees, including:
- An increase of $6.88 per year in the household solid waste rate, bringing the rate to $314.16 per year.
- An increase to $13.62 per thousand gallons in the water/sewer rate, which would mean an estimated annual increase of $24.50 per household, to meet normal inflationary costs and investments in core water and seer infrastructure.
- An increase in the Residential Utility Tax, with the revenues to be shared with School. The increase will raise funding for the County’s AIRE energy-saving program by $348,168. The money will be used to fund an Environmental Management Position previously funded with General Fund dollars, a consultant to update the Community Energy Plan and more County building energy retrofits. Even with the increase, the County’s Residential Utility Tax rate still will be the region’s lowest.
- A new $60 accessory homestay permit fee.
The average homeowner’s tax and fee burden will rise from $8,305 to $8,582 — a $277 or 3 percent increase.
The Board voted 5 to 0 to adopt the Budget, and 5 to 0 to increase the tax rate by 1.5 cents. Fiscal Year 2018 begins July 1, 2017. To read the staff reports, view the agenda for the April 22, 2017 Regular County Board Meeting. (Item No. 36 A-R).
Funding Arlington Public Schools
The County’s funding for Schools will increase by $23.3 million over the current year, to $490.3 million, which includes the portion of the tax rate increase approved by the Board. The additional funding will help address budget pressures from continuing enrollment increases.
The County Board approved a significant increase to Metro in the FY 2018 budget, including one cent of the tax rate increase. Metro is key to the County’s commercial corridors and our economic development strategies. The increase in County funding is more than $14 million, including local sources and the County’s share of state transit aid, bringing the County’s total operating support for Metro to $71 million.
“Metro’s future projected increases are unsustainable for local jurisdictions and can only be met by creating a new, dedicated funding source,” Fisette said.
Funding affordable housing
The Board increased funding to affordable housing over the FY 2017 budget by $1.3 million. Total AHIF funding in FY 2018 is just over $15 million.
Funding for public safety
The Board increased funding for public safety, adding seven new Sheriffs, three more Emergency Communications Center call takers and three police patrol officers, as recommended by the Manager. To save money, however, the Board opted to phase in the hiring of the new Sheriffs through the course of FY 2018. The Board funded two large recruit classes for the Fire Department to meet current needs and projected attrition.
Investing in Columbia Pike and Lee Highway
The Board put money into Columbia Pike revitalization and Lee Highway planning, noting the importance of these two corridors that lie outside the County’s Metro corridors.
The Board approved $200,000 in new funding for the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO) non-profit, which partners with the County to spearhead revitalization along the Pike. The new funding brings the County’s total support for CPRO to $400,000 for FY 2018. The Board also approved $150,000 for a County retail and marketing study to identify strategies for stimulating economic development along the Pike.
The Board allocated $60,500 for the non-profit Lee Highway Alliance, a grassroots partner with the County in long-term planning efforts along Lee Highway.
Funding land acquisition, road paving
The Board approved $4 million for land acquisition, $2 million more than the Manager had proposed. The Board also approved a $1.23 million increase in funding for road paving, bringing that funding to a total of $15.2 million, and $3.5 million for county facilities and synthetic turf fields.
The County will significantly improve its streetlight maintenance program in FY 2018, adding three positions (two less than the Manager had requested), equipment, and supplies to improve repair time for streetlights across the County. The County also will conduct a trail light inventory assessment.
Proposed transit fare increases
The Board voted to hold a public hearing at its May 20, 2017 meeting on proposed fare increases for Arlington Transit (ART) and Specialized Transportation for Arlington Residents (STAR), the County’s transit service for persons with disabilities. The increases, consistent with Metrobus fare increases, are meant to help offset increasing operating expenses.
The proposal incudes raising the ART adult fare from $1.75 to $2 and the ART discount fare for seniors, students and persons with disabilities from $0.85 to $1.00. The proposal also would extend the ART discount fare for students (called iRide) to include those in elementary schools. If adopted, the fare increases would be effective July 1, 2017.
Funding services for groups assisting undocumented Arlingtonians, mixed-status Arlington families and refugees
The Board also approved $100,000 to support eligible non-profits meeting the urgent legal and emergency needs of County residents affected by federal immigration enforcement activity.