The Arlington County Manager’s FY14 budget touts Arlington County’s low tax rate relative to other localities. Yet the Revenue Summary shows that even before the proposed tax increase, the tax and fee burden of Arlington residents is greater than any jurisdiction in Northern Virginia except Falls Church (p. 123).
Closeout funds from excess prior year taxes will be used to fund a variety of capital projects, including:
• $1.25 million for play features for Long Bridge Park
• $4 million for a firing range at Dulles Airport;
After spending $36.9 million to landscape four athletic fields at Long Bridge Park, I think that enough tax money has been sunk into the contaminated clay quarry on which the park is sited. Yet that’s peanuts compared to the total projected cost of Long Bridge Park, which is estimated at $121.4 million.
The County also plans to construct a firing range some twenty-one miles outside the county at Dulles Airport. The PAYG Budget Summary says the firing range is for use by the Police Department and Sheriff’s Office and that the total cost is $7 million.
The table on p. 320 of the summary shows that $4 million has been budgeted from FY12 closeout funds for the project, and p. C-98 of the FY13-22 CIP shows that $3 million has already been appropriated from FY11 closeout funds. Table B-4 of the CIP even has a $2.5 million line item for the firing range to be approved in the FY16 bond referendum. The project justification says that the firing range is needed because the one currently in use at Dulles lacks running water, fixed restroom facilities and covered firing points. Does providing those facilities actually require $7 plus million?
If so, the NRA has a state of the art shooting range just off the I-66 Route 50 exit that offers training for law enforcement personnel. If this range works for the NRA, why won’t it work for Arlington police?
At a time when real estate assessments are flat, office vacancy rates are at an all time high, and BRAC closures have forced significant cutbacks in federal support, it’s time to draw the line. Arlington doesn’t need to subsidize a firing range at Dulles Airport for $7 million any more than it needs to spend $10-12 million for a homeless shelter, $900k to keep the Artisphere open, $1.25 million for play features for an underutilized county park, or $250 million for a streetcar named I Desire to Raise Your Taxes. Arlington doesn’t need to balance its budget on the backs of its residents. Arlington County Board ought to determine the difference between needs and wants and budget accordingly.