Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, 11/16/2021.
I am happy that the County Manager proposes to allocate $16 million or the majority share of FY21 close-out funds of $20.4 million to next year’s budget but concerned that about $2.5 million will go to non-emergency needs. This is inconsistent with the wisdom of former Board member John Vihstadt who in 2016 advised that except for clearly identified emergency needs, allocation of the prior year’s budget surplus should be deferred till consideration of the following year’s budget.
The current closeout allocation deviates from the County Manager’s original closeout proposal as well as that of the Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission (FAAC), which recommended:
“A. Use $1.5mm of the unallocated $20.5mm for a 1 percent pay increase to staff starting in January, 2022.
B. Allocate the remaining $18.7mm to the 2023 budget for critical needs such as housing, restorative justice, etc.”
FAAC underscored the importance of not jump starting the FY2023 budget process in FY2022 in its November 15, 2021 letter to the Board, stating that it “agrees with the County Manager’s [original] recommendations to the County Board to carry the $18.7mm forward to the FY23 conversation, giving the County Board additional time to incorporate the most recent data and community feedback.”
This is not the advice County Board has chosen to take. Not surprising that it ignores the collective wisdom of one of its key commissions. Nor is it surprising that the County Manager’s original proposal was undercut by the Board. What is surprising is that the County Manager and the FAAC see eye to eye on this important issue despite the Board’s insistence on funding pet projects outside the normal budget process.