The Washington Post

Arlington homeowners to face more taxes

A home in Arlington. The County Board voted Saturday to raise residential taxes by 3.5 cents. (Nathaniel Grann/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

The owner of a typical Arlington County home will face an additional $235 in property taxes next year as a result of the County Board’s decision Saturday to raise the residential property tax rate by 3.5 cents.

The board, in a unanimous vote, agreed to set the tax rate at $1.006 per $100 of assessed value, increasing the tax on a home valued at $524,700, the county average, to $5,278. Other charges — including personal property taxes, utility taxes, water and sewer fees, trash fees and the automobile decal fee — will not rise, but together they could add $1,724 to what the owner of that home pays the county.

In addition to the higher tax rate, an average 1 percent increase in assessed value will be reflected in the taxes paid by owners of single-family homes. There was no increase in the average assessments on condominium or commercial properties.

“The County Board is fully aware that this is a time of uncertainty for our community, [with] sequestration, Base Realignment and [Closure], the ongoing uncertainty of the nation’s [economy] and the federal government’s budget decisions,” board Chairman J. Walter Tejada (D) said. “It is with great reluctance that the board is raising some taxes a modest amount. . . . It is so the community remains strong and prepared.”

No change was made in commercial property taxes or special business districts. About half of Arlington’s revenue comes from commercial property owners.

Board members restored $3.2 million in ongoing funding and 29 of the 46 positions that County Manager Barbara Donnellan had proposed cutting in February. The county will continue to regulate child-care providers and will retain seven police officers who do community policing as well as three fire department positions.

The board also added $8.9 million in one-time funding for such priorities, including $3 million for a budget stabilization fund in case of sequestration, $3 million more for the $9.5 million Affordable Housing Investment Fund, $2 million for land acquisition and $870,000 for a reserve fund for maintaining facilities and infrastructure.

The board added $1 million in new money for nonprofit agencies that provide safety net programs, as well as nature center hours, tree planting, invasive plant removal and youth programs.

The county’s nearly 3,800 employees will not get an across-the-board pay raise next year, but some may qualify for a merit “step” increase. The county set aside $3.4 million to pay for that.

The $1.09 billion general fund budget will also include $415.7 million for Arlington public schools, a 2.2 percent increase, fully funding the cost of an expected 1,000 new students. About $3.1 million in one-time funds for schools was also allocated, and the board set aside $6.6 million for a contingency fund.

Although the tax rate remains below what other Northern Virginia jurisdictions are expected to set, several board members expressed trepidation about raising taxes.

“As you know, this is not the tax rate I preferred,” said board member Jay Fisette (D), who with member Mary H. Hynes (D) wanted to keep the increase to Donnellan's original recommendation, 3.2 cents.

“Even though I think we could have done better, there is far more to like than not like in this budget, so I will support it.”

Patricia Sullivan covers government, politics and other regional issues in Arlington County and Alexandria. She worked in Illinois, Florida, Montana and California before joining the Post in November 2001.

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