Arlington County Board approves budget raising tax rate, fees

By Christy Goodman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 25, 2010; C06

The Arlington County Board approved a nearly $956 million budget for 2011 on Saturday, with an increase in the tax rate and fees that will require the average homeowner to pay $346 more in annual taxes.

The board approved a tax rate of 95.8 cents per $100 of a home's assessed value, an 8.3-cent increase. It also approved a rise in fees for utilities and a motor vehicle decal tax.

Chairman Jay Fisette said board members worked to maintain direct services to residents with the most need, but to also find efficiencies within departments. He said the budget preserves "core services, ensures fiscal sustainability and retains our highly skilled workforce."

Wayne Kubicki, policy director for the Arlington Republican Club, called it the "largest increase in four years and one that approaches the tax jumps in the housing boom. The budget you'll be approving is actually larger than last year by over $9 million."

Fisette said the general fund budget increased by 1 percent, however, the second smallest increase in 25 years. The smallest was last year, he added.

The board added $3.6 million to the budget over last year to cover a projected increase in funding for the Metro system. The county expects its portion of funding for Metro to total $24.2 million in 2011. That is a 31.5 percent increase in the county's Metro share since fiscal 2009, according to Richard Stephenson, the county's budget director.

"Arlington is saying if the other jurisdictions will step up to the plate, we will be willing to ensure that we don't retract service [and] that we don't cut back on the investment in the infrastructure by raiding the [Metro] capital budget, as is potentially on the table," said Christopher Zimmerman, an Arlington County and Metro board member. He said he believes Northern Virginia is committed to doing so, but is not sure about the District and Maryland.

The county board also voted to restore $1.5 million to keep fire personnel in the department's second heaviest rescue unit and $965,000 to maintain 11 community police officers. County employees will receive merit-based raises this year under the budget, a benefit they lost last year. And the board restored funding to affordable-housing initiatives and other nonprofit organizations, after proposed cuts.

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