The Civic Voice of Arlington
Report on Revenues and Expenditures
Adopted April 6, 2004
1. The Arlington County Civic Federation recommends to the Arlington County Board that it adopt a Fiscal Year 2005 General Fund Budget that is balanced at $714.3 Million [an increase of $48.6 million – 7.3% over the FY’04 Adopted Budget]. This would be accomplished by:
The real estate property tax rate, within the advertised rate, would be reduced by 4.6 cents to 93.2 cents per $100 of assessed value. With the recommended rate, the average single-family homeowner’s tax bill would still increase by about $355 – nearly 13% (rather than the about $525 proposed).
There is concern that this magnitude of increase, well above inflation and population growth, has continued for a number of years and is not sustainable for the County. This concern should influence future budget decisions and presentations.
2. The Federation recommends to the Arlington County Board a number of procedural improvements in budget presentation and in program operation as well as expressing its thanks to the Board and staff for adoption of a number of past Federation recommendations, such as summary presentations for program areas crossing departmental boundaries.
3. The Federation recommends to the Arlington County Board that: 1) it direct the County Manager to issue the Mid-Year Review and recommendations on the use of proposed budget contingents as early as possible in the public review process of future budgets, and 2) it direct the County Manager, through the budget guidelines for FY’06, to prepare a base budget proposal which provides a continuing level of services regardless of real estate assessments as well as readopt, beginning in FY’06, the Greenrod principle whereby budget proposals would periodically identify for specific public scrutiny, agency by agency, programs where recent levels of staffing and funding may no longer be required to provide reasonable levels of service.
4. The Federation recommends that the School Board and the County Board reexamine the Revenue Sharing Agreement at least every four years. Any future revenue sharing agreement(s) between the County Manager and the School Superintendent should be subject to full public hearings before ratification by both elected Boards.
5. The Federation recommends that the School Board establish a policy that the Reserve Fund be maintained at a fixed percentage of the operating budget. The Federation notes that there are a number of contingency funds, separate from the reserve fund, which can be used administratively. The Federation recommends that the experience with the contingency funds be reviewed to determine the extent to which they have been used, the purposes for which they have been used and, when they have not been used, what has happened to those funds.
6. Whereas we are concerned with the growing level of Schools debt service on capital improvement projects, compared to the amounts allocated for pay-go (referred to as “Capital Projects” throughout the proposed budget), the Federation recommends that the School Board maximize the use of pay-go projects to decrease bonded indebtedness and, thus, the amounts that must be allocated to debt service in future years.
The President of the Federation is authorized to transmit approved motions and supporting information, including macro-economic calculations and comparisons, to the County Board, the School Board, the media, and other interested parties and to offer to make Federation Committee members available to explain the motions, recommendations for procedural improvements, and supporting text.
Table of Contents Page:
Summary of Recommendations.............…...…4
Explanation of Recommendations..........……..4
Report of the Schools Committee........……...14
On February 7, 2004, the County Manager presented the County Board with a proposed FY 2005 budget. It followed earlier County Board guidance.
Proposed revenues at current rates of $715.8 Million (+7.5%)
[includes a dedicated $10 million prior fund balances
for capital improvements and an 9.5% increase in the
transfer to the Schools]
Proposed expenditures $712.7 Million (+7.1%)
[includes a compensation contingent of $8.8 million]
Leaving an FY’05 Budget Contingent of $ 3.1 Million
[Out of which recommended policy priorities were
noted in the amount of $1.2 Million and tax relief
was mentioned as possible]
Overall expenditures for basic County services were presented as receiving a 2.9% increase (more accurately 5.4% with the addition of the compensation contingent which will be fully used or 6.3% if the budget contingent were also added). On February 21, 2004, the County Board voted to advertise the real estate rate at the current rate of 97.8 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. At this current rate, the tax bill of the average single family home would have increased by 17.2% -- a sum of about $525.
According to the Manager, there were eight “key budget drivers” – which were:
Contracts and Living Wage $1.567 Million
Utilities 0.381 “
Landfill Charges 0.499 “
Auto Charges 0.278 “
Inmate [medical] Care 0.278 “
Lease Purchase Agreements 0.124 “
Rent 0.397 “
Insurance Claims 0.265 “
This is largely a continuing services budget; although items such as METRO operations would increase significantly. The manager’s proposed budget did not consider a $750K increase in net tax support for METRO as a “key budget driver”. Also, projects begun through mid-fiscal year 2004 would be continued at full year funding.
Based upon very pessimistic assumptions, the Manager projected increases as follows:
· Because of increased assessments and new construction, real estate tax collections would increase by 11.8%. Personal property tax collections would fall by 0.2%. Overall, local taxes were projected to increase by 9.5%. Revenues from the Commonwealth were to increase by 2.7% and those from the Federal Government to increase by 3.5%.
· Water and sewer fees were scheduled to increase by 17.9 percent.
Motor vehicle decal fees were projected to decline by 6% (9,166 vehicles and $220K) compared to FY’04.
The Manager proposed an $8.8 million compensation contingent to be available for review sometime before April 24. This contingent was to cover COLA, retirement system changes, employee benefit changes, and further implementation of the living wage. It was not available to the Committee as of March 27th.
The Manager also proposed a $3.1 million budget contingent to cover proposed priority expenditures and possible tax relief.
Committee Review Process:
The Revenues and Expenditures Committee again agreed at the start of its examination of the budget that our review would be conducted on the following terms:
o Base budget programs would be examined for excesses (including duplication) or under-funding;
o Normal inflation allowances (including step increases) would be expected;
o Withdrawn Commonwealth or Federal funds would be replaced with local funding where necessary;
o The Schools funding level would follow the budget agreement between the County Manager and the School Superintendent;
o Some modest increases would be considered for priority new initiatives, particularly in public safety;
o Some early decisions were to be made tentatively; subject to review after County staff responses to Committee questions were received and reviewed. Compared to FY’04, more responses were received;
o A realistic estimate of carryover funds from FY’04 would be developed without reference to the County Manager’s unwillingness to incorporate an estimate in his budget; and
o The Committee would then recommend a real estate tax rate that would balance the resulting budget. This is our standard procedure whatever the changes in assessments have been over the past year, with the focus always on taxing the exact amount required to fund County operations, regardless of changes in real estate assessments.
Using these procedures, the Revenues and Expenditures Committee makes the following recommendations:
SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS
(in millions of dollars with rounding)
County Manager’s BASE BUDGET (including contingent)..……………....................................$715.8
1. Manager’s Policy Priorities….…………………………………………………………………...-1.8
2. Transfer to the Schools: Schools’ Committee Recommendation……………….............………..0.0
3. General Government...............................................……………………………………..…….…..0.0
4. Public Safety................................…..………………………………………………..................+$0.1
5. Infrastructure and Operations.........…………………...............…………………………………..0.0
6. Human Services……………….……..…………………............................................…......….+$.0.1
7. Community Planning, Housing, and Development….................……………………………....+$0.3
8 . Parks, Recreation, and Community Resources…..…..................…………………………………0.0
9. Non-Departmental & Debt Service…..….......…………..............……………………………….-$1.6
10. Regionals/Contributions and METRO................…..............………………………………….. -$0.1
11. Pay-As-You-Go Capital Budget………………………………………………………………..-$0.6
12. Effects of Schools/County Revenue Sharing Agreement:
a) Increased transfer due Schools from revenue changes (14) – (16) below.………………+$13.3
b) Reduced transfer as per (18) below….…………………………………………………..-$12.0
13. Emergency Preparedness Reserve Fund………………………………………………………+$0.7
County Manager’s BASE BUDGET.....................................………………………………….....$715.8
14. FY’04 Mid-Year Review……………………………………………………………………..+10.2
15. Further FY’04 Revenue Reestimate………………………………………………………….. +2.8
16. FY’05 Revenue Reestimates………………………………………………………………..+$10.0
17. Miscellaneous FY’05 Fee Increases………………………………………………………….+$0.2
Surplus of revenues over expenditures………+$24.7
18. Net Committee Balancing Recommendation...............……………………………………...-$24.7
When comparing FY’04 adopted budgets and the Federation’s recommendations for FY’05, the results are as follows: Schools – 8.4% increase and County (General Fund after Schools transfers) – 5.4% increase. Using revised and/or appropriate budgets would, of course, produce different results, but the Schools would increase more the County (after Schools transfers) with virtually any combinations of comparisons.
EXPLANATIONS OF RECOMMENDED CHANGES
M =’s millions K =’s thousands of dollars
(1) Manager’s Policy Priorities (-$1,780.6K):
The Manager’s Budget Contingent totaled $3.1 Million. The Committee recommendations below amount to $1,319.4K. Therefore, the above number reflects the amount remaining for other uses.
The Committee accepts the Manager’s option of a “compliance specialist” who would “ensure compliance with federal, state, and local funding requirements and contracts” related to affordable housing units in the County at a cost of $65K.
The Committee accepts the Manager’s revised March 30, 2004 option of adding $750.2K to the housing grants program. Earlier, the Committee had accepted an earlier recommendation and added supplemental funds that approached this amount. The new estimate meets the Committee’s goal of preventing any loss of grants to current recipients and emergency new cases.
These additional amounts are supported only under the following conditions: new applicants must meet the guidelines for the program previously established by the County’s housing task force, the minimum age for new elderly applicants be raised to 65 (to match the County’s real estate tax exemption/deferral program), new applicants must be Arlington residents for a minimum of six months and be able to prove lawful residency, and existing grant recipients must be able to prove lawful U.S. residency. The County must ensure that requirements will be strictly enforced and that monitoring mechanisms are in place to avoid any future overspending for this program. At the March 30 budget work session, County Board members directed the Manager to tighten program requirements; hence, such Federation recommendations are very timely.
The Committee accepted the Manager’s option to add 2FTE’s in CPHD – one planner for the site plan review process and one construction codes inspector at a gross cost of $200K; all costs were estimated by the Manager on March 30 to be covered by an increase in associated revenue of $200, shown below in (17).
The workload in Public Works of reviewing developer and private owner plans, including site plan work and compliance has risen sharply as projects have increased. The average days required for plan review has increased from the target of 60 to 65. This is in part due to County adoption of stricter controls on infill, by-right and special exception-related development. The County Manager is requesting 2 new FTE’s to expand the staff reviewing projects and site plans. We support this recommendation, but note that the expansion should be structured to permit the County to reduce staffing when the current building boom subsides. There is a cost of $70K.
Public Health and Safety:
Consistent with prior Federation recommendation: Increase staffing for FY05 by 2 FTEs for environmental health inspectors. As the budget has now, for two years, pointed out, the number of inspections is declining – not merely because of a focus on “higher risk” establishments, but because supply of inspectors is not keeping up with demand resulting from new establishments coming on line. Currently, the inspections for both high-risk and medium-risk establishments is nearly 50% less than the suggested national standard for inspections. This is critical for the obvious reason that our restaurant industry is a major contributor to the quality of life in Arlington and to its economic base and because inspections are tools for educating food handlers – those who are on the true front line of food-borne illness defense and are most susceptible to natural or intentional causes of food-borne diseases. There have been no additions in environmental health inspectors in over a decade (since 1992). (+$189.6K)
In the Committee’s FY’04 report, we noted a Critical Unfunded Need: An Administrative Assistant for ECC. Thus, we support the Manager’s option to spend $42.6K for Emergency Communications Center staff support.
Because there is no clear plan to prudently spend the revenues which would be raised, the Committee does not support the proposed increase in the E-911 Wireline tax; see also a Procedural Improvement Recommendation below.
No Committee member made a motion to support any of the other options offered by the Manager.
(2) Transfer to the Schools (x.x):
The Committee accepts the County Manager’s proposed transfer to the Schools including: Operations, Comprehensive Services Act, Capital, Debt Service, Community Activities Fund, and Other of $275.9 million – 48.6% of the Manager’s projected local revenues as per the Superintendent/County Manager “agreement”.
See the report of the Federation’s Schools Committee, beginning on page 13.
Motion #4 above was, in part, reflective of the concern of some R&E Committee members that the Revenue Sharing Agreement was instituted at the time when enrollment peaked and rising enrollment could no longer be used as a significant factor in School’s requests for transfers in the budget.
(3) General Government ( 0.0):
The Committee notes that last fall the County Board voted to use carryover to fund the 2 additional FTE’s that the Federation had recommended for the County Board Office.
Given Arlington's proximity to the National Capital and it's extremely strong tourism, real estate and labor markets, it is difficult to see the value added that arises from county-supported tourism and visitor promotion, particularly alongside already substantial state, regional and private sector efforts. A General Fund transfer of $247K seems excessive to support the Visitor's Center. Some of these resources could perhaps be more effectively deployed or increased at the Business Information Center (e.g., one-stop information/forms, etc.) and/or a Small Business Ombudsman. With the Department of Economic Development's reduced role following the transfer of the Housing Division, a question should also raised as to whether it is necessary to operate this function as a separate Department. It would appear that the principal functions could easily be transferred to or absorbed by other departments with a possible reduction in overhead and associated expenses.
(4) Public Safety (+$100K):
For FY 2006, it is recommended that consideration be given to:
1. Four-man staffing of the two Truck Companies ($607.5K in today’s dollars)
2. A Public Affairs/Public Information Officer ($125K)
3. One additional FTE Administrative Assistant.
4. Address the headquarter deficiencies, particularly the administration/staff ratio. See Tri-Data.
5. Addition of $2 million to the next CIP for upgrades to the Fire Academy.
For the Fire Department, the Committee the addition of one non-uniformed FTE in the Emergency Preparedness Program for the purposes of CERT administration, CCC support, and the provision of community disaster education. (Cost: $100K)
For the Emergency Communications Center, immediate procedural recommendations (without a specific budgetary impact) include: 1) Insure that ECC is staffed with a Fire Department officer, either permanently or rotationally through assignment of those on light duty. This will greatly enhance the ability to screen calls requiring medical attention; and, 2) The County is encouraged to have a well-established career ladder/banding approach to employee retention in place by end of FY’05.
The Police Department is to be commended for its recruitment successes. The Civic Federation urges that greater attention to training be given, particularly in CBRNE, as evidenced by the beliefs of the officers queried by members of our Public Services Committee.
Attention should be given to the caseload in the Criminal Investigations Division of the Police Department. Without making a recommendation, the Civic Federation questions whether the resolution rate might not suffer as a result of the increase in cases per detective. The Civic Federation further urges that the Police Department and County Manager review the pay scale for the rank of Detective.
Assign at least one Police Department FTE to the development of neighborhood-based mutual aid systems, including, but not limited to, the introduction of a police-based training program to complement the CERT training. Training would focus on Neighborhood Watch and a variety of programs for neighborhood strengthening, including communications. (Personnel reassignments could accomplish this, or using light-duty officers.
Further Police Department recommendations: 1) Refocus attention on an increase in the shift differential pay for police officers. There has not been an increase in 12-14 years. (Additional money paid to officers for working evening or night shifts.) This should not be in lieu of overtime. A study of neighboring jurisdictions should be considered. And, 2) Review the status of Cold Case Squad; Washington Area Vehicle Enforcement Task Force; JTTF; joint Narcotics programs; intelligence gathering. Insure adequate staffing/participation.
(5) Infrastructure and Operations (0.0):
This budget chapter results from a reorganization of County functions that is bringing together the Department of Public Works, Office of Support Services and Department of Environmental Services. Net Tax Support rises 6% in FY’05. The biggest growth in expenditures is for new Arlington Rapid Transit routes to supplement or replace Metrobus routes, increases in paratransit costs and increases to cover the Living Wage rule, primarily for custodial services performed by contractors.
The revenue picture is bleak for ART until Metro solves its Smartrip card difficulties and begins sharing fares from transfer passengers. The Revenues and Expenditures Committee does not recommend cutting any of the new ART routes for lack of revenues until that situation is cleared up, but we note that the routes and fares of ART routes should be adjusted so that fare revenues cover at least 15% of route costs by 18 months after the initiation of service and 20% of route costs after 30 months. [The Fiscal Affairs and Transit Advisory Committees have made similar recommendations.] If these standards are not met, then route adjustments or increased fares for some categories of reduced fares should be made.
There is no cost breakout of cost per rider for any transit program other than the STAR paratransit program for the disabled. The subsidy for the STAR program is $29 per passenger trip, leading us to repeat our recommendation that this growing program be analyzed for more efficient ways of providing the service.
The Mobile Commuter Stores will be cut in FY 2005 due to a loss of the State grant that funded them. The Fiscal Affairs and Transit Advisory Committees both recommended accepting this cut. From FY 2001 to FY 2004 the number of transit passenger trips rose from 64.9 million to 75.6 million, a very sharp increase.
See a related recommendation in (1) Manager’s Policy Priorities above.
The workload of reviewing developer and private owner plans, including site plan work and compliance has risen sharply as projects have increased. The average days required for plan review has increased from the target of 60 to 65. This is in part due to County adoption of stricter controls on infill, by-right and special exception-related development. The County Manager is requesting 2 new FTE’s and $70,000 net tax support (after fee revenues) to expand the staff reviewing projects and site plans. We support this recommendation, but note that the expansion should be structured to permit the County to reduce staffing when the current building boom subsides.
Performance measures show a need for additional attention to the condition of our streets. We are concerned that the quality of Arlington’s asphalt maintenance is targeted to decline slightly in FY’05, a discouraging development for those taxpayers who live on streets whose pavement is already poor. Linear feet of centerlines and lane lines painted dropped 25% in FY’04 due to contract coordination problems, but is expected to recover to normal levels in FY’04 and will not receive additional funding. There is no funding in this budget for additional traffic calming staff, although neighborhoods continue to wait in a long queue for measures to be installed. The planning division is still in need of more resources to update master plans, but has lost an admin position instead. We would welcome proposals to address these needs in the FY’06 budget.
During this Fiscal Year the Arterials Transportation Management Task Force expects to complete its work and propose pilot projects on three segments of Arlington arterials. We have not proposed funding from Pay-As-You-Go capital in this budget, but following County Board consideration of the recommendations any projects adopted can be funded at mid-year or in the fall bond issue.
The biggest cost increase for Environmental Services results from a higher tipping fee for taking our trash to the joint Arlington-Alexandria Waste to Energy facility. Again the Mission Outcome measures should be revised to include measures of environmental quality such as counts of E Coli form bacteria in streams, stream oxygen content and the annual number of raw sewage dumps.
Mission Outcome Measures in this Department do not adequately reflect goals in some cases. “Value of projects completed,” a workload measure, should be supplemented with a performance measure of “projects completed on time and within budget.”
The Office of Support Services should delineate more clearly how its funding for the computer help desk does not duplicate the functions of the Office of Technical Services.
In the future the County needs to fund additional Geographic Information System work to facilitate data access, but there is no proposal for that in this budget. The work might be most efficiently done by outside contractors. Costs for electricity and maintenance for streetlights and signals will continue to increase as the number of lights rises. The eventual completion of the Arterial Transportation Management study may result in additional spending requests in future years.
In the future, this chapter should provide an analysis bringing together the separate presentations for proposed activities under Infrastructure and Operations (Tab F), the Utility Fund (Tab N) and elements of the capital budget that are not a part of the Proposed Budget to facilitate analysis of this organization.
The Committee supports the proposed and advertised fee increases for water and sewer and for household solid waste consistent with prior Federation recommendations to achieve full cost recovery.
(6) Human Services (+$120K):
Public Health: consistent with prior Federation recommendations. Increase staffing by at least one FTE in either surveillance or epidemiology. The County Manager’s proposed budget notes that “significant workload increases are projected due to intense disease surveillance involving monitoring of emergency room visits, hospital admissions, community physicians, and frequent contact with laboratories. The surveillance activity has ALREADY increased and does not yet include recommended inclusion of EMS and veterinarians. It should be noted that two surveillance nurses, one bio-terrorism planner, and one new epidemiologist were added mid-FY’03 as a result of state funding. (+$90K including vehicle)
Increase the number of public health outreach and information campaigns, either independently or in partnership with existing community resources to better educate the entire public on all aspects of the more serious diseases currently confronting Arlington. (+$30K)
In addition, the Committee believes that four procedural items with immediate budget implications must be addressed: 1) Upgrade the placement of Public Health as a full partner in all emergency preparedness activities; 2) Conduct a full-scale public-private review of the public health system; 3) Plan for budget increases in outlying years in the event State grant funding for bioterrorism personnel is not extended beyond FY 2005; and, 4) By FY 2006, have a well-developed plan for incremental budgetary increases to improve the public health infrastructure.
Agency on Aging and Disabilities: Identifying the currently un- and under-served population is the greatest problem facing this agency. It is recommended that a system/approach be devised to identify senior citizens and the disabled in such a way that help could easily be delivered to them in the event of a disaster while still maintaining privacy and confidentiality needs.
(7) Community Planning, Housing, and Development (+$300K):
The Community Code Enforcement Division still struggles with enforcement of property management codes, noise control, and the garbage, refuse and weed codes, particularly in the evening and on weekends, when most noise violations occur. The program continues to be understaffed and staff requires additional training and certification. Tickets issued have fallen from 979 in FY01 to 500. To honor the commitment to continue the initiative announced by the late Charles Monroe in January, the Committee recommends two additional FTE’s at an estimated cost of $160K and two vehicles costing $40K.
The Inspection Services Division is using extensive routine overtime to keep up with a workload estimated as 20% over capacity, and is in need of one additional FTE. The Committee recommends that this position be added at a cost of $80K with a vehicle costing $20K for a total of $100K. Some or all of this additional cost may be offset by fees from permit processing and code compliance as well as the reduction of overtime pay.
(8) Parks, Recreation, and Community Resources (0.0):
The PRCR budget for FY’04 continues the base level of services with some minor additions. There is a major increase in maintenance funds included in Paygo capital.
Park users and the Federation’s Parks Committee have noted for years the need for better maintenance of our tree stock, trails, shelters, signage and other park features. The proportion of parks buildings being maintained to standards has declined from a miserable 60 percent to a shameful 55 per cent, with similar results for comfort stations, tennis courts, light poles and fountains. In addition, the two nature centers are deteriorating and trail maintenance is below standard on 50% of the County’s paved trails. In addition, making facilities ADA compliant is still being put off. Finally, there is no new tree maintenance funding following the Dominion Electric devastation along Four Mile Run, or to follow up on the canopy replacement initiative of previous years. We did not recommended additional maintenance funding last year, asking the County to develop a coordinated plan for additional maintenance. We are pleased that the Manager has responded, with a recommendation to add $1 million in Paygo capital to fund additional maintenance for parks and park facilities for this Fiscal Year, coordinated under the Capital Asset Preservation Program.
Carver, Drew and Lee Recreation Centers have been renovated and required additional program funds last year and this year. The new Langston Community Center is open, the Powhatan Springs Skate Park will be open soon, and program activities have begun at Fort C. F. Smith Park. Parking facilities at Barcroft Park and elsewhere are to be used for overrun public parking. Master plans are in preparation for new facilities including the North Tract, Greenbrier Park, Arlington Mill Community Center, 13th and Herndon Street, Quincy Park, Oakland Park and Maury Park. We support the enhancement of Arlington’s parks, and would like to see more comprehensive planning for the normal increases in operational and maintenance costs at the time when the capital spending is presented to the voters for approval as a bond initiative. No Parks bond should be presented without this analysis.
The PRCR staff has undertaken limited snow and ice removal on the County’s trails since 2001. Given the all-season use of our trails by a wide variety of users and the opportunity to encourage new transit users to reach Metro by trail during snowstorms, we encourage PRCR to continue to budget for this activity. We recommend that the County adopt a comprehensive snow clearance policy for sidewalks and trails similar to the one used in Eagan, Minnesota and available on the Web. The cost of various options should be presented in the PRCR and Public Works budgets for FY’06.
The Cultural Affairs Division has again gained a partial FTE to reach 24.1, a net increase of 10 per cent in personnel over the last two years since it was reorganized to improve efficiency. Its net tax support has risen 12.7 percent over the same period. Still, use of the Costume Shop is denied to nearly half the applicants, including neighborhood theater groups. Fees for this program should be evaluated to see if full cost recovery is a viable option. In light of the appetite for additional funding by proponents of this program the County should maintain its perspective limiting new Arts funding.
Although employee perceptions of the value of the Health Smart program are important, the budget should present additional information keyed to employee performance measures such as use of sick leave, supervisors’ evaluations or disability claims. Since the program is a benefit for County employees only, it probably should not be under DPRCR
(9) Non-Departmental/Debt Service (-$1,596K):
Debt Service: 1) The County has historically issued bonds and therefore begun debt repayments AFTER the dates used for budget planning and at a lower interest rate; thus a reduction of $212K is reasonable based upon the accuracy of past Federation projections.
2) On March 27, the County Board approved the sale of general obligation public improvement bonds and refunding bonds; the sale is planned for April 28. The refunding was not included in the Proposed Budget; refunding will save between 1 and 1 ½ cents on the interest rate. With the $132.5 million dollars in bonds expected to be refinanced, this amounts to a FY’05 savings of between $1.325M and $1.988M. The Committee recommends accepting the lowest estimate as a fully realistic FY05 budget expenditures savings.
Affordable Housing Investment Fund Contingent: Unlike the last four years, the Committee recommends no change in the Manager’s recommended level of funding.
Compensation Contingent: The Committee: 1) supports continued funding of the Manager’s “living wage” program, 2) expects that COLA parity between County and Schools employees will be maintained, and 3) accepts the need to replenish the retirement fund based on lower investment earnings.
As a part of the use of this contingent, the Federation recommends both that an additional $35K be added to the ‘live where you work’ program and that the program’s eligibility rules be tightened to limit purchases to residences at or below the County’s medium priced residence.
Other: Retirees Health Insurance: Reduce expenditure estimate by $59K to more accurately reflect recent fiscal year actual costs. Reduction reflects better managed care; e.g. greater reliance on 'primary payer' of MEDICARE.
(10) Regionals/Contributions and METRO (-$144K):
The Committee again recommends that $1K be added to the Health Systems Agency allocation to accurately reflect current population for the County’s per capita contribution.
The Committee recommends that the recommended contribution to the Ibero American Chamber of Commerce be eliminated; a reduction of $45K. The FY’04 contribution was added without any public indication prior to budget approval that a request had been made; there was no public discussion of any potential benefits nor any opportunity for analogous organizations to apply. The one sentence justification in the proposed budget does not indicate a specific benefit to Arlington residents/businesses.
The Committee recommends a reduction of $100K in the County’s contribution to the Hispanic Committee of Virginia. All benefits to residents cited in the justification, except for immigration counseling, are provided already in County programs; primarily in DHS.
The DHS Volunteer Office in addition to recruiting volunteers for County programs should be directed to also recuit volunteers for County funded non-profit organizations such as Crisslink and the Hispanic Committee of Virginia.
Many previous Federation recommendations have been acted upon and cost savings achieved. However, modest long-term savings are possible for the County by: better management of regional agency reserve funds, better monitoring of comparative use rates, and constant updating of population-based assessments because Arlington's share of the regional population is declining.
(11) Pay-As-You-Go Capital Budget (-$550K):
The Committee recommends the addition of $500K to the Emergency Preparedness Program for the purpose of implementing the recommendations of the Citizen Corps Council, particularly those for communications systems and educational materials in emergency preparedness. For the FY04 budget, the Federation had recommended this as a part of a broader recommendation to establish a public preparedness reserve fund in the amount of $5 million to be funded from carryover funds.
In addition, the Committee makes the following recommendations to existing entries:
Capital Asset Preservation Program (CAPP) for Parks and Recreation ($1M). This fund provides for one time expenditures to consolidate and upgrade maintenance critical maintenance of park facilities. The Federation feels that such expenditures belong in the Parks and Recreation operating budget rather than as a catch up effort. We recommend that the CAPP funding be included in the DPRCR operating budget.
Neighborhood Conservation. The original 500K PAYGO amount used in FY03 funded the initial plus up of this project. Since then, the PWD has transferred a substantial number of project types to this fund. The Committee recommends ending this funding practice after this fiscal year and increasing the CIP bond funding for Neighborhood Conservation by $1M (a biannual amount), and adding to the CIP bond funding an amount equal to the additional capital costs transferred from DPW general operations (to be decremented from appropriate DPW bond funding).
Information Technology Funding. Staff has indicated that this project, aimed at replacing legacy mainframe systems and is planned to be financed with IDA bonds (not voter approved) at an additional cost of $990K. Moreover, it is understood that the ERP changeover will incur substantial additional costs for APS, which extensively utilizes the current mainframe computers. Additional questions have arisen over the procurement practices currently being utilized. In view of the substantial sums being invested ($8.94M) over a 7 year period, questions regarding the use of IDA funding and the rapid growth of this department’s operations, the Civic Federation recommends deferring this project one year (while not delaying ERMS project implementation) (-$1.3M). In the interim, the Civic Federation recommends the County Board commission an independent technology audit board (funded at $250K) to review County’s technology strategic posture and acquisition procedures to include the following topics:
v The progress and practices used by DTS to implement the County’s technology strategy.
v The advisability and appropriateness of using IDA bond funding for the ERP and similar technology projects.
v The DTS’s use of competitive bidding to reduce costs and maximize the performance of technology contractors.
v Ensure avoidance of conflict of interest situations regarding use of single vendors for multi-application platforms.
v It is noted that the level of County FTE’s for this department has remained steady, the Civic Federation understands that a rapid grown in contractor man years is being witnessed. Therefore the Civic Federation recommends the review group examine the nature and impacts of such growth.
The CAPP program can be seen as a reaction to a procedural improvement suggestion made by the Federation for a number of years that the County undertake an inventory of all County property and facilities so that a overall repair and renovation schedule could be created.
(12) EFFECTS OF SCHOOLS/COUNTY REVENUE SHARING AGREEMENT(+$1.3M):
In order to adhere to the Schools/County Revenues Sharing Agreement, the Committee conducted a series of calculations to show the effects on the Schools when overall General Fund revenues were re-estimated. For details, see the Federation’s web page under Revenues and Expenditures. The net result of these calculations was to increase expenditures as shown by the Manager – transfer to the Schools – by $1.3M.
From the revenue re-estimates in (14) – (16) below, there would be an increase of $13.3 Million and from the effects of the tax rate balancing recommendation in (18) below a decrease of $12.0 Million.
(13) EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS RESERVE FUND (+$0.7M):
Last year, the Federation voted to create this fund. A number of the incorporated expected expenditures for specific programs from this Fund have already been included in the Manager’s proposed FY’05 funding of County agencies. Others are again recommended above. At a lower level, the Committee again recommends formally creating this Fund.
(14) FY’04 Mid-Year Review (+$10.2M):
On March 19, 2004, the County manager presented to the County Board the Mid-year Review of Fiscal Year (FY) 2004. It estimated “Additional Revenues in FY 2004” of $15.8 Million of which $4.7 was already included in the FY’05 proposed budget for one-time capital expenditures. In addition, $900K was recommended for an increase in the County’s General Fund Operating Reserve; keeping the Reserve at a steady percentage of the general fund budget. The Committee accepts this recommendation.
(15) Further FY’04 Revenue Reestimate (+$2.8M):
Based upon the actual changes in recent fiscal years after the Mid-Year Review – both reduced expenditures and increased revenues – the Committee very conservatively estimates that no less than $2.8 million will be available after the fiscal year is closed out. The Committee believes that the actual will approach $6 Million, but conservatively will allow for unexpected events in the next three months.
(16) FY’05 Revenue Reestimates (+$10.0M):
The County Manager’s proposed budget projects only a 4% increase in calendar year 2005 real estate assessment. Calendar year 2003 experienced 15.2% and calendar year 2004 experienced 11.5%. At a minimum, the Committee believes that, based on current trends, no less than 9% can be safety projected. This would increase aggregate FY’05 revenues $8.6 million above the Manager’s estimate.
In addition, the Committee has included a minimal estimate of $1.3 million in additional increases above the Manager’s projections for other local revenue sources – approximately one-third of the increase in base already projected in the Mid-year Review for this fiscal year.
While reviewing projected recent fiscal year revenues, the Committee concluded that a systematic problem existed in Arlington budgeting. The use of a calendar year basis for real estate assessments versus a fiscal year basis for revenues creates unnecessary confusion and uncertainty. The Committee will prepare and send to the Federation’s Legislation Committee a request for Arlington to receive Commonwealth authority to adopt a real estate assessment period consistent with the County’s fiscal year – e.g. when the County adopts a tax rate it would begin only in the period of the budget adopted at that same time.
(17) Miscellaneous FY’05 Fee Increases (+$200K):
As per the above discussion, the Committee accepts the Manager’s estimate of additional fee revenues associated with adding two new positions in CPHD.
(18) Net Committee Balancing Recommendation (-$24.7 M):
The County estimates that each one cent reduction in the real estate tax rate will have a revenue impact of slightly less than $5.4 million (over three payments). The Committee recommends a reduction of 4.6 cents after allowing for rounding. The amount of surplus, after allowing for rounding, should be added to the County’s General Contingency Fund.
The Committee recommends (not in priority sequence) that:
General Fund Budget Presentation:
1. Whenever a new spending proposal is presented which will require expenditures in more than one fiscal year, it should be accompanied by: a) a "fiscal impact" analysis for future fiscal years, and b) an itemization of performance/workload measures which will be used to evaluate it if it is accepted.
2. A new table should be added to the proposed budget to highlight changes between the adopted and revised versions of the current fiscal year budget [analogous to the existing overview table in Tab A page 5 of the FY’05 Manager’s proposed budget]
3. The County should include reasonable estimates of carryover when projecting revenues for future fiscal years.
4. Even if no proposals are made for changes in operating reserves and contingent funds, their current status should be shown in proposed budgets.
5. There should be consistency in how the Schools and the County handle capital investment, capital asset repairs/renovations expenses, and carryover.
6. While the Committee generally found the proposed budget well organized and presented, there are a number of specific problems that will be identified in writing to the Department of Management and Finance. In particular, the Federation urges consistent budget presentations including use of the current budget year's Adopted Budget and Revised Budget.
7. The County Board should direct the County Manager to change the County's external auditor and the County’s financial advisor at least every five years.
8. The County Board, through an entity such as the Environmental and Energy Conservation Commission, conduct a study for volume/weight based charging for solid waste pickup as well as reviewing the current efficacy of special pickup charges.
9. The County Board should issue bonds only on terms related to the depreciation schedule of the assets purchased, and specifically not issue bonds for a term exceeding twenty years.
10. Prior to the next County bond referendum: a) a 'Master Debt Plan' should be developed, with full public participation, and published with projections of debt service incorporated into the budget, and b) a consistent County policy should be developed, with full public participation, on the criteria for the use of bond proceeds to fund any County operating staff and on the manner in which bonds costs are to be presented to the voters. This Plan should include all “bond-like” instruments including, but not limited to, bond anticipation notes, short-term bank loans in anticipation of bond issuance, long-term leases, and lease-purchase agreements.
11. Routine maintenance and operating costs for new County facilities and major capital equipment purchases must be shown in the fiscal impact statements when these facilities and purchases are approved by the County Board and/or the voters of Arlington.
12. As a part of its Capital Improvement Program, the County Board should create a five year plan to fully fund all improvements in County, including Schools, facilities necessary to achieve full compliance with the access requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
13. The Department of Human Services should initiate a study to determine which components of its day care licensing, training, and inspection services are suitable for full recovery of costs through fees.
14. Since an important part of the budget process is to determine how well individual programs are serving the community, the County Board should create a policy statement itemizing guidelines for determining measures of user satisfaction and when levels of satisfaction are to be collected by County operating units. Performance measures are needed whenever a County service, such as a solid waste collection route or preparation of ‘Master Plans’ for parks or sectors, is contracted out. Where possible, performance measures should reflect objective rather than subjective observations that can be made independently of the facility or service user.
15. The County should add a Citizens Fund for Arlington mechanism where taxpayers could contribute for either the general fund or for specific funding needs such as schools, traffic calming, libraries, affordable housing, parks, the arts, the Columbia Pike initiative, enhanced e‑government or other purposes as is being done in Fairfax County in 2003.
16. Create a comprehensive plan using outside consultants with: expected expenditures, funding streams, staffing needs, and future operating budget projects for the long proposed Emergency Communications Center’s 911 computer system for the County.
The Federation’s Schools Committee has reviewed the Superintendent's proposed Arlington Public Schools (APS) FY05 budget and supports its recommendations. The Superintendent's proposed budget was structured with three "tiers" of new spending initiatives. Tier 1 contained the initiatives he considered most important. Tier 2 contained initiatives he considered somewhat less essential. Tier 3 consisted entirely of "pay-go" capital projects that are funded from the county transfer. The Superintendent proposed that, if APS did not receive sufficient revenue to fund all of his initiatives, cuts would begin in Tier 3 and work upward as necessary. The Arlington County Civic Federation makes the following recommendations concerning the Superintendent's budget and the initiatives in it:
INITIATIVES RECOMMENDED TO BE UP-GRADED FROM TIER 2 TO TIER 1:
1. Extend Summer School Hours ($201,000) (Budget Book, p. 18). The Superintendent has proposed, as a second-tier item, extending summer school staffing at four elementary schools to provide an additional 2.5 hours of academic focus per day. The Federation believes that additional time and instruction devoted to at-risk children during summer school is so important to narrowing the achievement gap and ensuring rising achievement for all children that this item should be a Tier 1 priority.
4. Virus Protection Upgrade ($89,000) (Budget Book p. 36). Although the Superintendent has proposed purchasing a 10-year contract and long-term licensing agreement for virus protection as a Tier 2 expenditure, the Federation recommends this be moved to Tier 1. Considering that current sophisticated viruses can crash a network as well as individual computers, it would seem necessary for this item to be in Tier 1.
INITIATIVES RECOMMENDED TO BE DOWN-GRADED FROM TIER 1 TO TIER 2:
1. Reformulate Art, Music and Physical Education Planning Factors (redirection of $170,000 from Staff Contingency Fund) (Budget Book p. 20 and School Board budget question #7). The Superintendent proposes rearranging and increasing staffing so that each elementary school has a full time art and music teacher. The Federation feels that, in light of the continuing minority achievement gap and the importance of improving math and reading instruction, these additional positions are not a Tier 1 priority.
2. Junior Varsity Lacrosse ($50,000) (Budget Book, p. 34). The Superintendent proposed funding for six junior varsity teams. It is unclear why an extracurricular program would be in the first tier ahead of academic programs.
3. Diversity Training Funds ($10,000) (Budget Book, p. 24). The Superintendent included in his Tier 1 proposals staff development training on diversity. The Civic Federation does not agree that this item is a Tier 1 priority in light of other existing programs.
4. TESA Trainer and Support ($73,000) (Budget Book, p. 24). The Superintendent proposed hiring a full-time trainer and increasing a part-time clerk to full-time in order to provide teacher training in the area of “cultural competence and appropriate teaching pedagogy.” This program has been ongoing for two years. Before expanding it, the Federation feels an evaluation needs to be done to determine its benefits.
INITIATIVES FROM TIER 1 RECOMMENDED FOR ELIMINATION
1. Reduce Kindergarten Classes by One Student ($232,000) (Budget Book, p. 16; and Background Materials dated 3/12/04). The Superintendent proposes adding 6 positions to reduce the maximum size of kindergarten and Montessori (3-5 year olds) classes by one student, and add a teaching assistant and a kindergarten teacher at three schools. The Civic Federation feels that reduction of kindergarten size system-wide, while certainly desirable, is not a priority at this time.
2. Professional and Scales Evaluation Plans ($200,000) (Budget Book, p. 25). The Superintendent proposes to develop two new evaluation systems, one for teachers and one for principals, administrators and other exempt employees. The new teacher evaluation system is linked to a possible new differential pay system for teachers. If there is a need for a new system to evaluate teacher performance, it should be de-coupled from any particular system for paying teachers. Moreover, it does not seem to be appropriate to add a permanent, full-time staff member to accomplish what is essentially a one-time job. The Federation believes this proposal should be eliminated entirely.
3. Elementary ESOL/HILT Data Coordinator ($307,500) (Budget Book, p. 29; School Board budget question # 4, and Background Materials dated 3/12/04). The Superintendent proposes to add 4.8 positions for work other than instructional services. There was a decrease in ESOL/HILT students last year, and that reduction is projected to continue next year. It appears contradictory to the Federation to add almost 5 non-teaching positions when, due to the enrollment decrease, the Superintendent plans to eliminate 10 ESOL teaching positions. The initiative for the data coordination is to record and maintain data on all Limited English Proficient students. The Federation acknowledges the importance of making and maintaining these data. However, the Federation does not believe that the additional recommended investment is necessary to accomplish this task. The school system already has the personnel and a computer system capable of handling the data.
4. Instructional Support and Program Space ($290,000) (Budget Book p. 32). The Superintendent seeks funding for the first six months of a 3-5 year lease on 20,000 square feet of office space for support personnel. The Federation feels the Superintendent needs to better justify to the Arlington community the need for the lease in light of projected declines in student enrollment and the anticipated opening of the Reed School space.
5. Pupil Services Teacher Specialist ($40,500) (Budget Book, p. 33). Funding is proposed for a full-time staff trainer in areas of character education, peer mediation, suicide and harassment prevention. The Federation feels this work should be done by current Directors of Counseling in secondary schools, and by existing guidance counselors at the elementary level.
6. Middle School Activities Coordinator ($132,000) (Budget Book p. 38). The Superintendent proposes adding 2.5 positions to give each middle school a full-time activities coordinator. An increase in this position from half-time to full-time has not been justified by the Superintendent, and the Federation recommends deleting this initiative.
INITIATIVES FROM TIER 2 RECOMMENDED FOR ELIMINATION
1. Special Education/Preschool Transportation Coordinator ($65,700) (Budget Book, p. 34). The Superintendent seeks to add a new position to ensure each special-needs student receives appropriate transportation services. The Federation feels the case has not been made that this should be a permanent full-time position, when it appears to be temporary in nature (August - October).
2. Processing Free/Reduced Meal Applications ($50,000) (Budget Book, p. 35). The Superintendent proposes to create a permanent full-time position to input and maintain applications and manage the verification process. The Federation feels the case has not been made that this should be a full-time position, when it appears to be temporary in nature (August - October).
3. Skills for Success ($57,000) (Budget Book, p. 19; Background Materials dated 3/12/04) The Superintendent proposes adding a teacher and 0.25 FTE Director to provide a new middle-school elective class on time management, organization, study skills, team building, exposure to careers, etc. The Civic Federation feels that these skills should be part of the existing regular curriculum. The Federation does not view the introduction of an extra elective course on such matters in one school as even a Tier 2 priority.
Changes to the proposed budget
Net decrease Tier 1: $ 1,215,000
Net decrease Tier 2: $ 159,700
Tier 1 & 2 decreases moved to Tier 3/Pay-Go: $1,374,700
A motion was made and seconded in the Schools Committee to recommend that the net savings recommended in this report be returned to the taxpayers. By a vote of 4-4, the motion did not pass. Subsequently, the Committee voted to recommend that the savings be applied to the Pay-Go budget to reduce the amount of bonds that need to be sold. The Federation endorses the Committee’s recommendation.
Finally, the Schools Committee has some concerns about how contingency funds are used. The School Board learned this year that staff has funded some teacher's aides positions in excess of the funding formula (planning factors). The Schools Committee plans to inquire further into the use of contingency funds.
The Schools Committee made an assessment of the aggregate level of funding necessary to fund the Arlington Public Schools at the levels of excellence expected in this community. This included: the above program reallocations/eliminations, a review of Revenues and Expenditures Committee revenue re-estimates, and a review of Superintendent’s estimates of other sources of Schools funding. The Committee agrees that the above set of Federation recommendations meets this aggregate level of funding.