Public Safety Goes to the Back of the Bus in Arlington’s FY22 Budget Proposal

Comments at Arlington County Budget Hearing, April 6, 2021.

The Arlington County FY22 budget strikes me as aspirational rather than sensible. It proposes to balance the budget and fund a host of new initiatives in a COVID economy with revenues essentially flat (p. 59). The budget achieves this by axing core services and filling in the gaps with reserve funds (p. 7).

Among the new initiatives proposed are:

  • raising the base minimum wage to $17 per hour;
  • extending parental leave from 6 to 8 weeks;
  • increasing dependent care and tuition reimbursement and Live Where You Work Grants; and
  • instituting Juneteenth Day as a new paid holiday (pp. 23-24).

While these initiatives conform with the County’s so-called “equity agenda”, they come at a price. Twenty vacant Police and Sheriff Department positions will be gutted. A host of other police related positions will be frozen. Of particular concern are reductions in the 9-1-1 call center (p.42).

These draconian public safety cuts send a message to those who question whether they actually serve the public interest: if you’ve got a problem with the County’s priorities, you’re a candidate for its new deprogramming initiative (p. 22).

Another area of concern is the increase in the stormwater tax rate by 38 percent (p. 116), which comes on top of a stormwater bond issue of $51 million approved by the voters in November 2020 (pp. 770-771).  Regarding this increase, the voters should realize that when they approve every bond measure in sight, their taxes will go up. The County should acknowledge that McMansions built to the curb generate more runoff. A far less expensive way to mitigate runoff than expanding stormwater facilities is to revisit the setback provisions of the zoning ordinance.

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