The Arlington County Board yesterday voted to cut the property tax rate by eight cents, and indicated that taxes will be further reduced when the budget is adopted in April.
Under the new rate of $1.37 per $100 of assessed value, the owner of a home valued at $70,000 -- near the county average -- would still pay about $45 more in taxes than last year because assessments have risen by more than 10 percent.
Yesterday's unanimous decision will take effect after the board conducts a public hearing scheduled for March 24, on the tax rate. By state law, the board cannot adopt a higher rate at that hearing, but can lower the rate if it chooses. The tax rate can also be lowered in April when the budget is adopted.
Republican-backed independents who won control of the board in November said they viewed yesterday's action as a first step toward fulfilling campaign promises that the tax rate would be cut to offset the increase in assessments.
Arlington budget officials said yesterday that would require cutting the tax rate by at least 14 cents. In previous years the county board has routinely voted against cutting the tax rate until the budget was adopted.
"I would encourage the board to consider setting a rate now that would help in committing this board carry out its program of fiscal restraint and tax relief," said newly installed board member Stephen H. Detwiler, who made a substantial tax cut the major issue of his campaign.
County budget officials said that Arlington currently has a $5 million surplus, due in part to a rise in assessments that was greater than expected.
In other action, the board voted to send a "letter of disapproval" to the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority to show unhappiness with a controversial pool complex at Upton Hill. It is an action that both Arlington and park authority officials concede will have no effect because the pool is nearly completed and scheduled to open in May.
The $2 million, 26-acre facility, most of which is located in Fairfax County near Seven Corners, was approved several years ago by the County Board, as well as voters in Arlington and Fairfax Counties who okayed bond referendums.