Arlington County announces proposed budget with no tax-rate hike

Over the past two years, Arlington County, Virginia, residents saw tax-rate hikes with the approval of new county budgets, but this year could be different.

On Thursday, County Manager Mark Schwartz announced his proposed 2021 budget, in which he proposes no tax-rate change.

The proposed $1.4 billion budget includes a large chunk — 40% — going to Arlington Public Schools. That’s $17.7 million more than last year.

There is something in the budget for many county employees, including a raise of up to 3.5%, six weeks of parental leave and a day off on Election Day.

And both the police and fire departments will be able to add to their forces.

In addition, Schwartz wants to see public safety personnel have the potential of a merit-based pay boost of up to 6.5% and maximum and minimum salaries increased by 5%.

Tax revenue in the county is up 4.6% overall due to upticks in real estate assessments and the office tax base.

Schwartz said past budgets were affected by record-high commercial vacancy rates, but those numbers have improved, as anticipation of Amazon’s second headquarters heats up the county’s real estate market.

“Now we are beginning to see the results of our commitment to economic development and spending realignments,” Schwartz said in a statement.

Metro will get $1.7 million more from the county to help with its operating budget and for Phase 2 of the Silver Line project, which will link the train line to Dulles International Airport.

Schwartz also said 5% of the budget will go toward affordable housing. Some $9.1 million is earmarked for housing, as a result of input Schwartz received from the county board.

In 2019, areas of the county along Four Mile Run were affected by flash flooding. This budget funds a pilot program, which will put flood sensors at high-risk intersections and at some homes deemed eligible for the program.

However, some fees in the county will increase if the proposed budget is adopted.

Fees for solid waste, water and sewer will go up. Getting certified copies of vital records, such as birth and death certificates, will rise. Also, registering residential alarms and fees associated with false alarms will also increase.

For those who forget to return library books, there is a provision they may want to get behind. Schwartz called for the elimination of library fines, with a goal of making “library collections more accessible to all users.”

Schwartz will present his budget to the county board on Feb. 25, and residents can weigh in beginning March 31.

Feedback on the budget can also be given on the county’s website.

The board will then vote on the budget and any changes to it on April 18. The new budget year begins on July 1, 2020.

You can see Schwartz’s presentation on the county’s website.

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