PRESS RELEASE: Tax Hike on the Way, Despite Huge County Surplus

A  hefty tax rate increase is in store for Arlington County residents and businesses, but Independent County Board Candidate Audrey Clement says a tax increase isn’t needed–not until the County spends down its surplus.

April 4, 2017, Arlington, VA.

County Manager Mark Schwartz is asking for a 2 cent tax hike that will increase average residential 2017 real estate taxes by 4 percent or about $300. Yet the latest Consumer Price Index indicates that the annual rate of inflation is only 2.7 percent.

Mark Schwartz argues that increasing school enrollment and declining Metro ridership require taxpayers to step up to the plate. While both schools and Metro are major priorities, these operations should not be balanced on the backs of Arlington taxpayers.

According to the Arlington Civic Federation’s Revenues & Expenditures (R&E) Committee, rising real estate assessments will push the average 2017 tax bill up 2 percent even without a tax rate increase, and taxes have gone up 16.8 percent in the past four years.

Aside from the issue of fairness, there’s a question of need. The R&E Committee reviewed the County’s 2016 Consolidated Annual Financial Report (CAFR), Exhibit 3 and determined that “there is a $114 million surplus of unspent funds-beyond what the County Board budgeted in FY 2016-that could be reallocated.” These funds could easily cover the Metro and APS shortfalls, which the County Manager’s FY 18 budget presentation puts at $5.9 million and $11.1 respectively.

According to civic leader Suzanne Sundburg, County surplus funds do not include Arlington Public School (APS)’s unallocated surplus of $19 million, reported in the Superintendent’s FY18 proposed budget (book 128-29, web 136-37).

Clearly County and School Board accounts are bloated with excess unspent funds that could reallocated to meet current needs.

If elected, you can be sure that I will seek seek a full accounting of the County’s surplus funds. I will use the excess to cover budgetary shortfalls instead of gouging the taxpayers.

To that end, I support an R&E Committee resolution calling on the County Board to reject the County Manager’s proposed tax rate increase and maintain the current tax rate of $.991 per $100 of assessed value.

In addition, I plan to:

  • Seek ongoing tax relief for residents and businesses and stop the exodus of federal agencies from Arlington.
  • Preserve green space and emphasize basic services like: streets, schools, libraries and public safety.
  • Promote transparency by requiring publication of official documents at least 72 hours before board and commission meetings.
  • Provide a voice on County Board for all taxpayers.

As a 13-year Westover resident and long-time civic activist–with a Ph.D. in political science and service as a Congressional Fellow–I have both the experience and independence to promote these reforms.

To find out more about my campaign, visit

www.AudreyClement.com

You can make a difference! Boost my campaign for Arlington County Board by volunteering for or donating to my campaign.

Together we can make the “Arlington Way” more than an empty phrase.

Stratford Middle School Driveway Promotes a “More Car Diet”

Comments at County Board Meeting on March 18, 2017.

One of the principal features of the Stratford MS site plan is the driveway that cuts through a tree lined hill between Vacation Lane and Old Dominion Drive. This feature was approved by County Board Board in 2016 on the recommendation of past Chair Libby Garvey—then running for reelection–who declared herself a leader for rejecting the advice of all relevant County commissions against the driveway and siding with parents who wanted it.

While pandering to the majority might have made political sense in 2016, it was by no means prudent either from an environmental or safety standpoint. First, destruction of trees at Stratford MS, as with all other recent County school construction sites, will aggravate runoff and generate more carbon pollution. Second, the extended driveway will induce more traffic in the neighborhood, which will jeopardize the safety of those children who do walk to school.

Third, it directly contradicts the County’s car free diet policy expressed in a resolution adopted by the Board in 2014 stipulating that “Arlington County promotes the Car-Free Diet to encourage residents to try a car-free lifestyle to save money, improve health and clean the environment.”

It’s clear that Arlington Public Schools is in violation of the car free diet policy, since every single school expansion undertaken since its adoption has resulted in the destruction of greenspace for more parking. It’s obvious that the County itself is violating this policy, since every major development it approved in recent years has been accompanied by massive parking facilities.

Since the majority of Arlington residents won’t walk, bike, bus or Metro to work, the More Car Diet that Arlington enables makes more political sense anyhow. If reelection is what you’re after, then stop equivocating. Tout the More Car Diet that you are enabling. Those who like to park on the Beltway will vote for you, and those who take Metro to work and school will appreciate your honesty more than the doublespeak to which they are constantly subjected.

Restriping Washington Boulevard Might Induce More Crashes

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting on March 18, 2016.

Arlington County Transportation Division plans to ask VDOT to restripe Washington Blvd. between EFC and Westover as part of a repaving project.

Program Manager David Goodman described the project and conducted a Q&A at a March 1 meeting he hosted at Westover Library. In response to a subsequent email soliciting public comment, I sent Goodman the following questions, which I want to share with you. Continue reading

Donald Trump Has More Taste Than Arlington County Government?

Comments on impending demolition of historic Wilson School at Arlington County Board Meeting on February 25, 2017.

I think it’s safe to say that President Trump is not popular in Arlington right now, given the lopsided vote the County delivered to his opponent last November—76 percent to be precise. Contributing to Trump’s lack of popularity in liberal circles is the widespread perception that he epitomizes tasteless wealth, i.e. the nouveau riche.

Yet on my way to a Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protest last December, I passed the Old Post Office Pavilion, newly renovated by Trump into a luxury hotel. I observed that no pains were spared to restore the exterior of the Post Office Pavilion to its original grandeur. Continue reading

No Cost Benefit Analysis For WRAPS Plan

Comments on the West Rosslyn Area Plan Study (WRAPS) at Arlington County Board Meeting on February 25, 2017.

The WRAPS project is promoted by County staff as a great deal for Rosslyn. With developer Penzance underwriting the cost of a new fire station, a new cross street, a new park and a ground lease on County property worth millions of dollars, what’s not to like about it?

Well, for one thing the park to be constructed occupies only a portion of the original Rosslyn-Highlands Park, and this space will be shared by at least 1,000 additional residents in two high rises to be constructed on the site. The fire station will share a building with residents of 330 apartments in one of the towers. Residents here and the 560 units in the apartment building next door will compete with 775 students of the adjacent new Wilson School for short term parking, recreational facilities, pedestrian access and public transit. Continue reading

PRESS RELEASE: Nestle USA’s Relocation to Arlington Not So Sweet

Arlington County Board Candidate Audrey Clement welcomed the news that 1812 N. Moore Street, Arlington’s tallest office building–which has been vacant since construction in 2013–will soon have a new tenant.

“Finding a tenant was a major coup for the owner, Monday Properties, and for the County itself, which is struggling with a 20% office vacancy rate,” said Clement. “But the choice of tenant–Nestle USA–leaves a lot to be desired.”

With a market capitalization of $235 billion and $9.4 billion in annual profits, Nestle is the world’s largest food corporation. But there is a dark side to Nestle – and it’s not chocolate. Continue reading

Arlington Delegation to Richmond Feeds at Dominion’s Trough

Comments at January 5, 2017 Public Forum Hosted by Arlington Delegation to Virginia General Assembly.

The Arlington delegation to the state General Assembly touts itself as progressive. Delegate Patrick Hope heads up the Virginia Progressive Caucus, which he formed in 2012. Delegate Alfonso Lopez has described himself as the most liberal member of the General Assembly. Yet despite all this grandstanding, the amount of progressive legislation adopted by the General Assembly in recent years is paltry. The Arlington delegation explains that the state legislature is owned by downstate Republicans, who oppose its agenda.

One area where progress is decidedly absent is renewable energy. Continue reading

Widening I-66 Eastbound Inside the Beltway: Is it Really Needed?

Comments at December 5, 2016 VDOT Public Hearing on Environmental Assessment (EA) for Widening Eastbound I-66 Inside the Beltway.

The fact that Arlington residents have an opportunity to comment tonight on the environmental assessment for widening I-66 eastbound is a step in the right direction. When VDOT widened the same stretch of I-66 westbound in 2010, there was no EA public hearing, because there was no EA. Continue reading

S3-A Zoning Districts: An example of County Board Overreach

Comments at December 10, 2016 Arlington County Board Meeting on lifting restrictions on S-3A zoning districts, which County Board voted unanimously to adopt.

I want to associate myself with a recommendation sent to County Board on November 1 by longtime CivFed leader Suzanne Sundburg. In asking County Board to defer action on County staff’s request to rezone S-3A zoning districts, i.e. schools and parks, Sundburg said: Continue reading