Arlington County Manager W. Vernon Ford will propose a $162.8 million budget to the County Board today that recommends no tax increase despite providing 6.5 percent pay raises for the county's 2,200 employes.
Nevertheless, county taxpayers can look forward to a cut in the property tax rate of at least 8 cents and perhaps 12 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. Last month, the board, dominated this year by Republican-backed independents, cut the rate 8 cents, to $1.37 per $100, giving Arlington one of the lowest rates in the Washington area.
Members of the majority have said their top priority is to cut the rate another 4 cents in an effort to offset a more than 10 percent rise in assessments.
County Manager Ford said yesterday he thinks that "by the time we get to the end of the budget process, additional revenue" will be found to make the additional 4-cent cut in the tax rate.
County budget officials say Arlington already has a $5 million surplus, due largely to a larger-then-anticipated rise in assessments.
The tax rate for the fiscal year starting July must be set by March 10. The board must adopt the budget by April 28.
Ford's budget gives the board some options for adding to or reducing the spending total, although he said he is not recommending the reductions, which would be made in police and fire staffing.
The new board majority has announced a selective hiring freeze and reduction of the county work force through attrition, although it has not specified where reductions should be carried out.
Among the possible reductions outlined in Ford's budget are elimination of two fire engine companies serving Rosslyn and the area near Falls Church to cut 27 firefighting jobs. Ford said that if the board decided to do this, some organizational changes would be made to ensure that fire protection is maintained.
The budget also gives as possibilities reducing hours at the county's six branch libraries and eliminating a police-sponsored summer camp for disadvantaged youths.
School spending of $38.1 million, the largest single item in the budget, would be identical to this year's outlay, although the total has been repeatedly criticized as "inadequate and unfair" by school board members and Superintendent Larry Cuban.
The largest increase in spending would go for Metro transit operations; the $8 million proposed is up 20 percent over this year. Among the increases in Metro spending would be an $108,000 contribution for Sunday subway service and $100,000 for subway-related emergency communications equipment.
Of the $162.8 million budget total, $31 million would come from state and federal sources and the rest from Arlington taxpayers, including about $58 million in revenue from the property tax.
Among the budget's allocations: $11 million would go for administration, about $18 million for police and fire, $9.3 million each for public works and parks and recreation and $10 million to be apportioned among libraries and other departments.