Arlington County homeowners are facing a higher tax increase than previously announced after the County Board on Tuesday ordered the manager to raise the tax rate by 3.5 cents, which would mean the average residential tax bill would go up by $277.
Board members, who will vote on the budget and tax rate Saturday, restored many of the budget cuts that manager Barbara Donnellan had previously proposed, and they told her to add an additional three-tenths of a cent to the tax rate to send more money to the county schools.
The schools had been slated to receive $411 million of the county’s anticipated $1.07 billion fiscal 2014 budget before the board’s action Tuesday. The board’s vote was 3 to 2, with members Mary Hynes and Jay Fisette abstaining.
If the board passes the tax rate and budget as proposed, a taxpayer who owns a home worth $525,000 would pay $7,003 in taxes and fees next year. He or she currently pays $6,726. If the homeowner's assessment rose, the tax and fee bill would be higher.
Residential property owners contribute half of the county’s tax revenue each year; Arlington is equally dependent upon commercial taxpayers.
In February, Donnellan had warned of a $35 million budget gap and uncertain economic future as the federal government cut spending and federal contractors tightened their purse-strings. She had advised eliminating 46 of the county government’s 3,749 jobs and making Columbus Day, now a paid holiday, a regular workday.
The board also restored a number of significant cuts that Donnellan had previously proposed, returning $14 million and 30 jobs to the proposed county budget. The restorations included $3 million for the county’s affordable housing investment fund, $2 million for land acquisition, $900,000 for seven existing community police officers, $403,000 for three Fire Department positions, $752,000 for capital maintenance reserves, $250,000 for a county child-care program and $199,000 for a deputy director of parks and recreation.
Donnellan advised keeping Columbus Day as a regular workday, but allowing county employees to take another day of their choosing as a “floating” paid holiday.
Those positions and programs could be restored, Donnellan said, because the mid-year and third-quarter tax revenue collection was higher than the county had planned. The budget goes into effect July 1.