The county board voted to raise the tax rate by 1.3 cents per $100 of assessed value at the Arlington County Board meeting Saturday April 21.
The $1.05 billion budget includes more hours for area libraries, a raise for county employees of nearly three percent on average as well as a 2.3 percent raise for the board members themselves. Board members will earn $50,127 per year and the board chair will earn $55,140, county documents say.
The budget is 4.7 percent higher than last year’s. Much of that increase comes from the rise in assessed value of residential and commercial property in the county.
Schools will get $405.1 million under the sharing agreement arranged between the county and schools.
The budget also restores some weekend hours to the county-run Gulf Branch and Long Branch nature centers. The board acknowledged how popular these places are, a lesson learned when the board tried to zero-out the budget for Gulf Branch in 2009.
Board members said they had created a budget that included a one-cent increase in the property tax rate, but a last-minute mandate from the state that school employee retirement plans be funded at a higher level forced them to tack on another three-tenths of a cent.
The mandate puts the budget eight-tenths of a cent higher than what the county manager recommended, but lower than the two-cent increase the board had advertised earlier this year.
Board members said they would hash out the details of the state mandate over the next several months. The three-tenths of a cent was a cushion to cover that.
Budgets Show What A County Values
“This is a living, breathing document that reflects the values of this community,” board member Jay Fissette said, a sentiment echoed by the rest of the board.
If residents want to see what a community really values, do not listen to board members, but see what they put in their budget, member Chris Zimmerman said.
"Budgets are comprehensive policy statements,” he said. "This is a pretty darn good budget. It does a lot of what's needed....[including] restoration of basic services that all Arlingtonians expect."
The budget itself was largely a foregone conclusion by Saturday morning. The process of hammering out the final number took place over the past five months.
The board spent a large portion of its time on a short policy memo that would outline what any extra money would be used for. At the end of every fiscal year in June, the county adjusts its books, and should money be left, they the board figures out what to do with it.