Arlington County Manager Larry J. Brown unveiled yesterday a proposed $224.4 million county budget for fiscal 1984 that represents a 5.7 percent increase over the current fiscal year and calls for no increase in the real estate or personal property-tax rates.
But while those tax rates remain stable, the average homeowner can expect to pay $57 more in county taxes in 1984 through increasing property assessments as well as higher fees for water-sewer use, solid waste collection and disposal and 13 other user and service fees amounting to $2.3 million.
The increases include higher fees for overdue library books, higher penalties for false burglary alarms at banks, higher costs for building permits and inspections, and higher charges for use of recreational services.
"The tax rate may stay the same, but with the recommended user fee increases , that's the same difference," said Republican board member Dorothy T. Grotos. "I'm not too pleased with that."
The real estate and personal property-tax rates are 98 cents and $5.10 per $100 assessed valuation, respectively.
Out of the $224.4 million, Brown's proposed budget sets aside $185.3 million for general operating funds, a 5.2 percent increase over this fiscal year and an amount on target with the County Board's spending guidelines. That figure also incorporates nearly $3.4 million in capital improvements.
The balance comes from special funds generated by water-sewer user fees and noncounty school revenues. The proposed budget projects $24.6 million in state funds and $7.5 million in federal aid.
Brown, hired six months ago before the Democrats had won a board majority, described the proposed budget as a "no-change, maintenance budget."
"It should be viewed as a starting point," he said. "We still have some uncertainties. We still don't know for sure what the economy is going to look like and we still don't know for sure what reductions we may anticipate from Virginia or the federal government."
If the County Board adopts the budget, it will mean that the owner of today's $110,000 home will pay $1,145--a $34 or 3.1 percent increase--in real estate taxes in 1984 because of an anticipated 7 percent increase in property assessments.
If proposed boosts in solid waste disposal and water-sewer fees are approved, the average homeowner's bills would jump $23 a year.
Brown's budget proposal, presented to the County Board at yesterday's meeting, provides $1.8 million for a 3 percent pay raise for the county's 2,297 employes and an additional $200,000 in improved health-insurance payments, which would result in an overall 3.3 percent increase for employes.
That figure contrasts with School Superintendent Charles E. Nunley's recommended 5 percent increase in salaries and improved health-insurance benefits for 1,732 school employes in each of the three fiscal 1984 budget plans he recently presented to the school board.
Nunley's budget proposed county general fund transfers to the schools ranging from $50.7 million to $52.7 million. Nunley has said the lower figure is inadequate.
In keeping with the County Board's request to cap spending increases at 5 percent, Brown's budget provides for only $50.7 million in county funds for schools--or a 5 percent increase over this fiscal year.
County Board Chairman Ellen M. Bozman said yesterday that it was too early to determine how much flexibility there may be in the new budget plan for exceeding the $50.7 million guideline.
In the past, Bozman and the board's two other Democrats, John G. Milliken and Mary Margaret Whipple, have criticized school spending increases set by previous Republican-controlled County Boards as inadequate.
Brown's budget also proposes a county general fund transfer to the Metro transit system of $11.5 million and $1.9 million for the community activities fund that covers several program costs shared with the school system, such as the maintenance of county swimming pools. Included in the budget proposal is a $500,000 contingency fund and a debt-service payment of $12.4 million.
Brown said he will present the County Board with a list of 12 options that would save the county $353,800. The suggestions range from reducing the county subsidy of the solid waste-collection system from 50 percent to 25 percent, to installing 400 new parking meters.
As part of a long-range effort to improve county services, Brown said he plans to reorganize the county staff, a move he said will cost $150,000 a year but ultimately result in savings.