The Arlington County Board today adopted a $1.2 billion General Fund Budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 that includes a half-cent cut in the real estate tax rate.
“This is a good budget,” said Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey. “Even as our population and school enrollment continue to grow, and our office vacancy rate remains high, the Board was able to put together a budget that preserves our community’s values, gives schools more funding than they requested, and adds funding for public safety, economic development and other key services – with a slight decrease in the tax rate.”
The Board voted 5 to 0 to adopt the Budget. Fiscal Year 2017 begins July 1, 2016. (Item No. 48 A-M on the agenda for the April Recessed County Board Meeting.)
Lower tax rate, more money for schools
The County’s General Fund Budget will increase 3.3 percent from the FY 2016 Adopted Budget. The County’s total funding of Schools for FY 2017 will be $466.9 million, a 3.3 percent increase from FY 2016, and $1.1 million in one-time and ongoing funding above the School Board’s funding request.
Tax and fee burden to rise 2.5 percent
Arlington’s real estate tax rate remains the lowest in the region due in part to the half-cent tax rate reduction adopted by the Board. Still, the average Arlington homeowner will see their property taxes rise due to an average increase in residential real estate assessments of 2.8 percent. The average homeowner will see their tax and fee burden rise from $7,640 to $7,829 – a 2.5 percent increase. That translates to about $16 a month or $189 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 $464.5 million in ongoing funding and $2.5 million in one-time funding for Schools.
Investing in economic development
The Board added $1.5 million to funding for economic development. Funding will be used to focus on lowering the commercial vacancy rate to support the commercial real estate market in Arlington.
Supporting public safety
The Board approved the largest increase in public safety funding in years, adding five new deputy positions and an American with Disabilities Coordinator (ADA) in the Sheriff’s Office; six patrol officers in Police; eight firefighters to complete 4-person staffing on all engines, and four additional firefighters to address peak-time medical transport needs. The new positions reflect the County’s population growth and increasing demands on public safety.
The additional firefighters will enable the department to meet the national standard for safe staffing levels for the remaining two of its 14 fire suppression units. The department also will add a peak time medic unit that will operate seven days a week during daytime hours when calls for emergency medical services are highest.
The Police department’s six new officers will help ACPD meet its core mission responsibilities. The Sheriff’s Office’s five new positions will improve safety and security at the Courthouse and the Detention Center, bolster its administrative staff and add a uniformed American with Disabilities Act coordinator.
More funding for affordable housing
The Board added funding to what the Manager had included in the Proposed Budget — from the proposed $12.5 million to $13.6 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 which helps with rent assistance for qualified low income tenants.
As part of its effort to increase government transparency, the Board added funding to continue livestreaming Board work sessions and certain advisory commission meetings. The Board also added modest funding to continue the County’s open data efforts.
The Board accepted the Manager’s proposals to fund merit pay increases for employees, increase the living wage to $14.50/hour, and fund the Live Where You Work program and tuition reimbursement.