$1.4B Arlington Co. budget keeps property taxes steady, increases stormwater tax

Arlington County, Virginia, unanimously adopted a new budget Tuesday that includes more money for schools and mental health responders, as well as more funding for the county’s COVID-19 response.

The real estate tax rate will stay the same at $1.013 per $100 of assessed property value, as assessments increase 2.2%.

But the stormwater tax — for the first time in a decade — will increase slightly from 1.3 to 1.7 cents per $100 of assessed value. The increase is expected to add $29 to the average residential bill.

The budget includes bonuses for workers. County employees who did not get a pay increase last time around will get one-time bonuses of about $900 and 1% pay hikes. Plus, wages for county workers will start at $17 an hour instead of $15. County workers will get Juneteenth as a county holiday.  

The $1.4 billion budget for fiscal year 2022 includes $529.9 million for public schools, a 1% increase over last year.

“The budget provides one-time funding of $2.8 million for Summer School Incentive Paymentscosts of opening Cardinal Elementary School and the Education Center and operating a distance learning program in the fall,” a news release said.

While schools will receive $5.1 million more, Arlington’s budget includes $16.4 million in departmental reductions, including an ongoing freeze on hiring, leaving 56 positions vacant and delaying the reopening of the Cherrydale and Glencarlyn libraries. Among the vacant positions are 10 police officer positions and 10 deputy sheriffs.

Arlington County Board members
Arlington County Board members met April 15 for a budget markup session. (Courtesy Arlington County Government)

“This budget represents a bridge from the public health and economic challenges we face from the pandemic to the recovery ahead,” said Matt de Ferranti, chair of the Arlington County Board. “This budget is not only financially strong but also reflects our commitment to a future that is committed to racial and economic equity.”

“More than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the county continues to feel the economic impacts, entering the FY 2022 budget process with a $26 million budget shortfall due to falling revenue and heavy impacts on the county’s commercial and business properties,” a news release said.  

The budget sets aside $17.5 million in federal money for COVID-19-related expenses, such as vaccine distribution and testing and contact tracing, emergency rental assistance and eviction prevention, emergency service needs and food assistance, personal protective equipment and cleaning, and support for the business community. Arlington County received that money from the federal stimulus bill signed by President Joe Biden last month.

The budget includes $574,000 to help improve Arlington’s mental health crisis response program. The money will pay for a physician assistant, nurse, clinician, a transport van and operating supplies.

Another $125,000 is set aside to hire an auditor or monitor for a new civilian police review board.

The budget also includes money to hire six unsworn officers to direct traffic and enforce parking laws.

There’s $250,000 to design, buy and install 13 electric car charging stations, as well as buy more electric vehicles.

The increase that county residents will see in the stormwater tax will fund a multiyear effort to upgrade and replace infrastructure and reduce flooding after voters approved in $50.84 million in bond measures.

The county said the stormwater tax rate increase will fund the debt service on bonds for the following projects:

  • Cardinal Elementary School underground stormwater detention facility, in collaboration with Arlington Public Schools; 
  • Spout Run watershed capacity improvements; 
  • Lubber Run watershed capacity improvements; 
  • Ballston Pond watershed retrofit;
  • Four Mile Run dredging, in collaboration with the City of Alexandria; 
  • Dumbarton culverts.  

The new fiscal year starts July 1.

Read the county budget manager’s budget presentation. The county has more on the budget on its budget information page.

WTOP’s Colleen Kelleher contributed to this story.

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter and anchor at WTOP.

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