Quid Pro Quo Needed To Raise Taxes

Comments at Arlington Budget Hearing, April 2, 2019.

The principal fiscal impact of County Manager’s proposed budget is a 1.5 cent increase in the real estate tax. The tax increase approximates $10 million restored to the maintenance capital budget, which was slashed in last year’s budget (book 23, web 31).

Bike commuters like me welcome the restoration of funds for street paving as a public safety measure. But the tax increase is not needed to achieve it.

According to numbers reported in the proposed budget (book 144, web 152) and the annual Consumer Price Index–Arlington real estate taxes have increased more than double the rate of inflation over the past ten years.

Given that rising assessments drive healthy revenue increases every year, the County should not add to the tax burden without extracting quid pro quos from the principal recipients of its largesse—Metro and Arlington Public Schools (APS).

In the case of APS, the County should scrap any increase in the 46.6 % schools transfer (book 104, web 112) absent a commitment to reduce costs. In his proposed FY20 budget, Superintendent Patrick Murphy has offered to do just that through efficiencies, reductions and a modest increase in class size resulting in savings totaling $10 milllion (p. 57).

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Metro which has been awarded a 12% increase in its operating subsidy (book 25, web 33), beyond a statutorily required 3 percent “COLA”. In return for Arlington County’s generosity, Metro demands even more. Its quid pro quo? A promise to shut down 5 Northern Virginia Metrorail stations feeding Reagan National Airport for three months beginning Memorial Day weekend.

This is unacceptable. Arlington County must deny Metro the 22 percent increase in operating subsidy it demands until/unless it promises an immediate cessation or reduction of planned service disruptions.

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