ARLINGTON, Va. --- The Arlington County Board today directed the County Manager to craft a proposed budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 that will rely on a mix of proposed spending cuts and tax increases to close a projected gap of $25-50 million in the combined Schools and County budgets.
The Board directed the Manager to fund services that protect the health and safety of Arlington residents, continue investments in affordable housing and environmental sustainability, adequately support the public schools, including funding an expected increase in enrollment, and ensure a safety net for those in need.
“The Board’s budget guidance creates a framework within which we can begin our work,” said Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes. “This is the start of the budget discussion. During these uncertain economic times, we will have to make some tough choices. We look forward to months of discussion with the community as we set priorities and make those choices.”
The Board emphasized the importance of maintaining long-term financial sustainability and preserving the County’s AAA bond ratings.
The guidance directs the Manager to balance the County budget with an equal mix of proposed tax increases and cuts to expenses and services. The guidance also allows for possible tax increases to fund costs associated with ConnectArlington, Arlington Mill, and the County’s franchise agreement with Comcast.
County Manager Barbara Donnellan has already taken initial steps to begin cutting costs. Donnellan has ordered a hiring slow down, now in effect, that restricts the pace at which departments may fill openings. In addition, Donnellan has authorized early retirement offers to qualified staff. The County Manager also has instructed department heads to provide expenditure reductions.
The County is projecting as little as 1% increase in real estate assessments, with residential real estate projected to increase between 1% and 2% and commercial real estate projected to stay flat or slightly increase. Real estate taxes, which are based on assessments, are the single largest source of revenue for the County.
Among the costs expected to increase are employee compensation; healthcare, the County’s funding for Metro, and debt costs. In addition, there will be new costs for operating Arlington Mill and the County’s ConnectArlington fiber network.
The Board voted 3-2 to approve the guidance, with County Board Chair Hynes, and Board Members Jay Fisette and Libby Garvey voting in favor of the guidance and Board Vice Chairman Walter Tejada and Board Member Christopher Zimmerman voting against the guidance.
Read details of the guidance on the County website; click on item #29.
The County Manager and the Superintendent invite the public to a joint community forum on the FY 2014 Budget, Thursday, Nov. 29, 7-9pm at Washington-Lee Cafeteria. The County Manager will meet with Commission Chairs on November 20 and will hold an online community chat December 17.
The County Board also closed out the FY 2012 Budget, closing it out under budget and allocating available funds to reserves and priority projects. Available funding was generated by stronger-than-expected revenues, Schools savings, and County operations expense savings.
Arlington County’s General Fund balance for FY2012 was $191.5 million; most of which, $155 million, or 81%, is allocated in accordance with current County Board policy (e.g., reserves, Arlington Public Schools, Affordable Housing Investment Fund, etc.), prior County Board action, or legal/regulatory requirements (e.g., seized assets).
“Our stable real estate market, combined with conservative fiscal projections and prudent spending, has generated a reserve balance that enables us to provide one-time funding to a number of strategic priorities,” said Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes.
The FY 2012 closeout allocations also include $3 million to increase the FY 2013 Budget Stabilization Contingent. These funds are set aside to help prepare for direct impacts from possible sequestration and subsequent loss of federal funding for a variety of programs, primarily in human services. The Board voted 5 to 0 to approve the closeout appropriations.
Read details on the County website; click on item #28.
Arlington, Va., is a world-class residential, business and tourist location that was originally part of the "10 miles square" parcel of land surveyed in 1791 to be the Nation's Capital. It is the geographically smallest self-governing county in the United States, occupying slightly less than 26 square miles. Arlington maintains a rich variety of stable neighborhoods, quality schools and enlightened land use, and received the Environmental Protection Agency's highest award for "Smart Growth" in 2002. Home to some of the most influential organizations in the world -including the Pentagon - Arlington stands out as one of America's preeminent places to live, visit and do business.