March Madness has arrived again in Arlington!
I am not speaking of the college basketball tournament, however, but rather of the proposed budget submitted by the Arlington County Manager. In what has become an annual tradition, the County Manager once again calls for significant cuts in funding for the management of the County’s natural resources. These reductions may risk the very foundation of Arlington’s material well-being.
Overall, the County Manager proposes a budget for fiscal year 2014 of over $1 billion, a 2% increase over the adopted FY 2013 Budget. Yet, all of the economic activities that generate the taxes and fees that support the proposed billion dollar budget have some connection to the land -- the 26 square miles that we in Arlington call home.
The proposed budget reductions may strike at the very heart of the prudent management of our land base. As acknowledged in the proposed budget document (pages in parentheses):
- eliminating the Natural Resources Specialist position at the Long Branch Nature Center will decrease the County’s ability to evaluate changes to the environment and conduct biotic inventories prior to development, diminish support for the Natural Resources Management Plan, and reduce the ability of the County to mobilize volunteer groups to care for the County’s natural resources (web608);
- abolishing one of the urban forestry positions will lessen the County’s ability to maintain and water existing trees, remove dead plants, and install replacements in parks and streetscapes (web616);
- shrinking forestry supplies (such as topsoil and water bags) by 16% will impact the health and installations of publicly-owned trees (web616);
- cutting the tree distribution program will result in 1,050 fewer trees being distributed to private property owners who offer the largest opportunity for planting trees (web617);
- removing funds for tree planting will cause a net loss of 50 trees on County property next year (web617); and
- cancelling contracts for invasive species management will drop the annual number of acres where invasive plants are permanently removed by 71% (web618).
According to the County Manager, all of these cuts together will save the County only about $350,000, or just over three-hundredths of one percent of the proposed budget. As shown above, however, the cost to the County is much, much greater.
Are we in danger of killing the goose that lays the golden egg?