The Arlington County Board today approved the capital improvement program, which outlines nearly $3 billion dollars of funding over 10 years. The money would pay for facilities, parks, paving and other county improvements. Included was $537.7 million to fund school maintenance and construction. Although the CIP is a planning document that looks at funding for the next decade, officials have said that the numbers for the next few years are the most accurate, with the accuracy dropping after that.
The hard numbers, however, include the board-approved bond referenda that will be put before voters this November. Voters will be asked to approve nearly $111 million for county projects and nearly $43 million for schools. The CIP comes before the board biennially. In later years of the CIP, the debt service (read: interest payments) on the bonds make up nearly 10 percent of the county budget, a number the county tries not to surpass for fear of losing top ratings from various credit review agencies.
Included in the county bond funding: $42.5 million for the Long Bridge Park aquatics facility; $11 million for neighborhood conservation; $14 million for Metro; and $13 million to pave streets. The school's bond funding covers additions to three elementary schools and construction of two new elementary schools.
“It was a really robust process,” said board member Jay Fissette. This was the first time the board has created a 10-year plan (former plans were six years), so the document was longer than before. However, Fissette pointed out that the level of detail was impressive.
Board Chair Mary Hynes agreed, holding up the inch-thick bound document. She added that the supplemental guidance the board gave to the county manager fit on just two pages. She said this indicated a high level of consensus in the community.
Although public comment was closed on the CIP itself. A few speakers addressed the board on the issue of bundling items in the referenda. The county puts similar items together under various topics for the countywide vote. Metro and Transportation, Local Parks and Recreation, Community Infrastructure and Arlington Public Schools are this year’s topics.
Bob Atkins and Jim Hurysz, frequent critics of the county board, asked that the board not bundle the aquatics center in with the rest of the funding but let voters consider it on its own. But the board sided with the usual process of bundling.
The board offered guidance to County Manager Barbara Donnellan in a handful of areas. The board took quite a bit of time to discuss land acquisition policy, a topic they considered in a work session with the county manager on Thursday afternoon.