Correction & clarification: Arlington Public Schools’ per-pupil funding for FY 2016 is $18,558 — not $18,588 as previously reported. We regret the error. Per-pupil spending for FY 2015 is $19,040. [Updated 04-22-2015, 1:09pm]
- No tax rate increase
- Fully funds Schools
- More public safety funding
- More economic development funding
- Adds internal auditor
- Maintains social safety net
The Arlington County Board today adopted a $1.16 billion General Fund Budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016, that includes no tax rate hike while adding funding for Schools and economic development to the County Manager’s Proposed Budget.
“There is much in this budget to be proud of,” said Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes. “It preserves our community’s values, fully funds schools and adds important funding for economic development, public safety and other key services, without increasing the tax rate.”
The Board voted 5 to 0 to adopt the budget. Fiscal Year 2016 begins July 1, 2015.
In balancing the budget, the Board kept the real estate tax rate of $.996 per $100 of assessed value, the same level as CY 2014 (including the sanitary district tax). Both County government and Arlington Public Schools (APS) took budget cuts so that Arlingtonians would not see a tax rate increase.
The County’s General Fund Budget will increase 1.1 percent from the FY 2015 Adopted Budget. The County’s funding of Schools will increase 4.5 percent.
Tax and fee burden to rise 4 percent
Arlington’s real estate tax rate remains the lowest in the region. Still, the average Arlington homeowner will see their property taxes rise due to an average increase in residential real estate assessments of 4.9 percent and a 1.8 percent increase in the water-sewer rate. The average homeowner will see their tax and fee burden rise from $7,286 to $7,567 – a 4 percent increase. That translates to about $23 a month or $281 a year.
Increased funding for Arlington Public Schools
The Board collaborated with APS to meet the challenges posed by growing enrollment and the need to expand existing schools and build new ones.
The Board provided $451.6 million in ongoing funding for Schools, fully funding the School Board’s Proposed Budget. Under this budget, Arlington taxpayers are providing educational funding of $18,558 per Arlington student.
Artisphere to close
The Board’s most significant cut was its decision to close Artisphere, a move that will save $2.3 million in net taxpayer support for the County’s critically acclaimed arts and cultural center. The County has said that the center’s failure to consistently attract a large enough audience and its ongoing need for substantial County funding put too great a burden on strained County finances. The County is redirecting $496,000 of the money saved to fund alternative arts and cultural programming across the County.
Auditor to report to County Board
The Board established an internal auditor position, with $200,000 of funding, to complement and augment the County’s existing internal auditing program. The auditor, and an advisory committee, will report directly to the County Board and will focus on tightening financial oversight and deepening program performance review.
Investing in economic development
The Board added $1.4 million to the Manager’s Proposed Budget to increase funding for economic development. $1,000,000 of that will be on-going funding, used to fund five new fulltime positions, support marketing activities, and expand support of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization. The rest will be for, travel, tourism, and TandemNSI, a public-private partnership to promote connections between Arlington-based high-tech firms and government.
Supporting public safety
The Board added five new Sheriff deputy positions, a salary supplement for the Public Defender’s office, funded a new drug court and additional jail-based mental health services, provided $100,000 to address an unfunded state record keeping mandate in the Circuit Court and set aside funding to support Fire Department equipment should the County receive a federal SAFER grant for additional employees. The Board also provided new funding to the Animal Welfare League for an additional Animal Control Officer.
Maintaining funding for affordable housing, bike/pedestrian program, sustainability programs
The Board maintained the level of funding included in the Manager’s Proposed Budget at $12.5 million for the Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF), the revolving loan account that is the County’s primary tool for creating and preserving affordable housing. The Board also funded the housing grants program at $8.9 million – a $1 million increase over FY 2015.
The Board maintained funding for the County’s successful bike/pedestrian program at the FY 2015 level of $812,121 and continued support of the AIRE programs, which support environmental sustainability throughout the County.
The Board accepted the Manager’s proposals to fund merit step increases for employees and restore funding to the Live Where You Work program.