Arlington, Va budget News

This just in from the county. Because property values have gone up,home owners will pay a bit more in taxes but the tax rate will not increase. I am sorry to see the Artisphere go. The Artisphere is an under appreciated, under attended venue that was never marketed well. I have seen some great exhibits and events there that no one has ever heard of. With the right marketing I think it could have been a money maker for the county.

Here’s the news release:

Arlington County Board: No Tax Rate Increase in CY 2015

Board marks-up FY 2016 Budget, final vote April 21
Collaborated with APS to fully fund Schools
Increasing public safety funding
Increasing economic development funding
Funding internal auditor
Maintaining social safety net, bike-pedestrian programs
The Arlington County Board today indicated it will not raise property tax rates for Calendar Year 2015 when it adopts the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget on Tuesday, April 21. All five Board members indicated during the final budget work session that they will vote for no tax rate increase.

“By doing things smarter and more efficiently, and taking about $2.6 million in cuts, we have developed a balanced budget that preserves our community’s core values without raising the tax rate,” said Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes. “This budget fully funds Schools, maintains core services and the social safety net, values our employees by providing a modest step increase, and invests more in the critical areas of economic development and public safety. I am confident that next week, we will adopt a budget that continues this County’s long track record of wisely managing taxpayer money while making strategic investments in infrastructure and environmental and economic sustainability.”

The Board voted unanimously to approve a package of changes to the County Manager’s Proposed Budget. The changes, called the “Chairman’s Mark” will be incorporated into the Budget that the Board will hold a final vote on at its Recessed Meeting on Tuesday, April 21.

Hynes noted that even without an increase in the tax rate, the average Arlington homeowner will see their property taxes rise due to an increase in assessments 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 four percent increase. That translates to about $23 a month or $281 a year.

“Every member of this Board is acutely aware of the tax burden on our residents,” Hynes said. “We felt strongly that we did not want to add to that burden.”

One of the biggest challenges the Board faced, she said, was meeting the needs of Arlington Public Schools, which is challenged by a continuing increase in student enrollment and the need to expand, refurbish or replace aging schools and build new ones. The Board added $6.18 million in funding, an increase of .6% from FY 2015, to fully meet the School Board’s request for funding.

“We were able to collaborate closely with the School Board to come up with a solution that works for Schools and works for our community,” Hynes said. “I commend the School Board for taking a hard look at their own budget and working with us to ensure that APS remains one of the best public school systems in the nation. Our action in this budget means that approximately 46.5% of locally generated revenue will be spent to support our youngest Arlingtonians.”

Artisphere to close, other cuts planned

The Board indicated that it will accept $2.6 million of the $4.1 million in proposed optional cuts offered by County Manager Barbara Donnellan when she unveiled her Proposed 2016 Budget in February. The largest of those cuts is achieved by closing Artisphere, the County’s critically acclaimed arts and cultural center in Rosslyn; conversion of Metrobus route 3A to ART service; redirection and transitional support for the 86-slot Kids in Action program located at Drew and Carver centers to APS Extended Day; and no expansion of the County’s urban agriculture offerings.

At the same time, the Board indicated that it will fully fund pedestrian-bike programs, the Fresh Aire environmental sustainability program and cluster care for seniors aging in place.

Responding to community requests the Board also will provide approximately $725,000 in funding to support the following: the Community Service Board’s request for mental health support at the Detention Center and a nurse practitioner at the Drewery Center, an additional Animal Control Officer for the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, a salary supplement for Arlington’s Office of the Public Defender to ensure competitiveness and improve retention, staffing to cover an unfunded mandate requiring comprehensive data collection in the Circuit Court, and 5 new positions in the Sheriff’s Office.

Significant increase in economic development funding

The Board significantly boosted funding for economic development, citing the County’s historically high office vacancy rate and increased regional competition.

The County’s Department of Economic Development will gain $900,000 in funding and five new positions. In addition, it will gain $200,000 in funding for travel and tourism. The Board also said it intends to give the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, a non-profit that promotes economic development along the Columbia Pike corridor, $100,000 in additional funding to support its place-making and economic development activities. In addition, the Board will provide $200,000 to support TandemNSI, a public-private venture designed to connect federal agencies to tech entrepreneurs.

“Arlington must stay competitive; broadening our commercial base beyond the federal government is critical to ensuring the long-term economic viability and overall sustainability of our community,” Hynes said. “The Board’s willingness to invest more money in economic development underscores how serious we are about becoming a technological hub and attracting businesses – large and small, new and established – to our County.”

Employee compensation

The Board indicated that it will accept the Manager’s recommendation to give employees a step pay increase, fully fund pensions and reinstitute Live-Where-You-Work grants that provide grants to employees who want to rent or buy homes in Arlington.

The Board responded to more than 1,000 comments made by the public in two public hearings, letters, emails, phone calls and comments submitted through the County website. The Board also held a series of work sessions on the Budget. At the 6:30 p.m. session of the April County Board Recessed Meeting on Tuesday, April 21, 2015, the Board will hold its last public discussion on the FY 2016 Budget and vote on it. The Public Hearing on the Budget is closed and the Board will not be taking any further public testimony.

The FY 2015 Fiscal Year ends June 30, 2015.

Media Contact: Mary Curtius, 703-228-7943

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