Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan Thursday previewed for the Arlington County Board a proposed $1.1 billion budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 that is balanced with no tax rate increase. Excluding the Schools transfer, the budget for County operations totals $687.7 million, a 1.8 percent increase over the adopted FY 2014 budget. The proposed budget is 2.6 percent higher than FY 2014.
In November, Donnellan had forecast a combined $20-25 million budget gap for Arlington County and Arlington Public Schools.
“The gap between funding for ongoing County services and revenues that I predicted in the fall was eliminated by our higher-than-anticipated real estate assessments," Donnellan said. “But we must still work to achieve efficiencies and continue to invest in our community."
Donnellan highlighted priorities of her budget during a work session with the County Board. Those include:
- Growing the Innovation Economy – the County is laying the groundwork for becoming a hub of the innovation economy through such programs as Tandem NSI, a public-private partnership linking fast-growth technology product companies with national security agencies. The goal is to attract, grow and retain cyber-security and industries of the future.
- Technology Investments – Planned investments will help the business community, residents, and visitors, including parking technology to allow users to “pay by cell.” The County's new mobile app is helping residents and businesses identify service problems such as downed stop signs, pot holes, and broken fire hydrants.
- Business Support – Arlington is bolstering the BizLaunch program, a cross-departmental effort that provides assistance to businesses, especially as they navigate their way through various County processes.
- Planning – County real estate values increased this past year in large part because developers remain bullish about the future of Arlington, despite higher vacancy rates. The proposed budget includes a new principal planner focused on Crystal City and continues the planning work already underway in Rosslyn, Four Mile Run, and Courthouse.
The proposed budget includes a transfer to Arlington Public Schools of $432.2 million, an increase in ongoing funding of $19.6 million, or 4.7 percent over FY 2014; Arlington Public Schools continue to spend the highest per pupil amount in the region, and remains one of the best public school districts in the nation. The proposed budget also funds the Schools’ projected new enrollment costs, as well as the continued funding of over $8 million of direct support to Schools, including nurses, School Resource Officers (police assigned directly to schools) and crossing guards.Housing
The proposed budget continues Arlington’s investment in housing. The Manager proposes an investment of $34.3 million in local tax dollars in housing -- or 5.1 percent of the General Fund budget, excluding the Schools transfer. Highlights include:
- Funding of $9.7 million for the Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF), from one-time and ongoing funds.
- Partial year funding for the new Homeless Services Center in the Courthouse area scheduled to open in FY 2015.
- $8 million in Housing Grants, funded with a combination of one-time and ongoing funds, meeting projected program demand for FY 2015.
- Continuation of the three-year affordable housing study.
Under the Manager's Proposed Budget, the overall tax and fee burden for the average Arlington household would increase from $7,003 to $7,371, an increase of 5.3 percent, or about $31 a month and $368 per year. This primarily reflects the 5.3 percent increase in the average residential property assessment and a 3.4 percent increase in the water-sewer rate. The proposed increase in the water-sewer rate is due to inflation and the addition of engineers and system technicians needed to operate the expanded, upgraded Water Pollution Control Plant. The Manager is also proposing increasing the household solid waste rate by 2.4 percent.
The Manager also proposes increasing Arlington Transit (ART) bus service fares. She proposes increasing the adult fare from $1.50 to $1.75 in the coming fiscal year. Smaller increases are proposed for seniors and students using the ART system. Fees also will increase for those transferring from Metrorail service to ART buses. Fees for some users of the County's Specialized Transit for Arlington Residents (STAR) service also will increase. The County Manager is proposing to increase the "Zone 1" STAR fare (to the most close-in locations) from $3 to $3.50 for a one-way trip.Next steps
The County Manager sought feedback from the community in putting together her proposed FY 2015 Budget. Residents were invited to make comments and suggestions online, the Manager met with Commission chairs in November and she and the Superintendent of Schools held a joint public budget forum in December. The County Manager also held an online budget chat with employees. She will formally present the budget to the Board at the February 2014 County Board Meeting.
The Board will hold a series of public work sessions on the budget and two public hearings; information will be posted on the FY 2015 Budget webpage. The first budget hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, March 25. The second, on tax and fee proposals, will be held Thursday, March 27. The Board will adopt the budget in April, and the new fiscal year will begin in July. To view the Board’s meeting schedule, visit the County website.
For more information on the FY 2015 Budget, visit the County website and search “FY 2015.” The County Manager’s full Proposed Budget will be available Saturday, Feb. 22, on the FY 2015 Budget webpage.