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Arlington County Civic Federation

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The County Manager Outlines Budget
Priorities for FY 2006.

September 2004

Every year the County Manager sends a message to staff about budget priorities for the coming fiscal year. This year's message is rather extraordinary, and since it follows closely many Civic Federation recommendations made last spring we post it here.


2100 Clarendon Blvd., Suite 302 Arlington, VA 22201
TEL.: 703.228.3120 FAX 703.:228.3295 www.arlingtonva.us


TO: Department Directors, Constitutional Officers

FROM: Ron Carlee, County Manager

SUBJECT: Budget Priorities for FY 2006

September 8, 2004

Arlington comes to the Fiscal Year 2006 budget process in a strong economic position: continued development and reinvestment in the community, full employment, and a triple-A bond rating by all three rating agencies.

The challenge we face is the long-term economic sustainability of the community. This requires us to balance competing interests. To ensure sustainability, I am establishing three objectives for the FY 2006 budget:

    1. To provide tax relief for homeowners;

    2. To Sustain core public services; and

    3. To respond to strategic or emerging needs.

Tax-Relief. This year Arlington's housing market has continued to be very hot. Average residential real estate assessment growth is approaching 20% for the fourth year in a row. Residential homeowners have already seen an average increase of $1,467 in their tax bill since CY 2000. In CY 2000, residential homeowners paid 49% of the real estate taxes and commercial property owners paid 51%. The residential percentage is expected to increase to 60% in CY 2005 due to the rapid residential assessment growth coupled with much slower growth in commercia1 property assessments, shifting the tax burden further to the residential homeowner. Over the same period of time, revenues from County fees and federal and state support have grown, but at a level well below the rate of growth of residential taxes. Thus, the overwhelming priority of the FY 2006 budget must be to bring tax relief to Arlington homeowners. I have appointed a staff Task Force to develop options within the constraints of State authorizing legislation by the end of September. Simultaneously, I ask all Departments to look aggressively at fees and other revenue sources that can help relieve the general tax burden on homeowners.

Sustain Core Public Services. Over recent years, Arlington has had the good fortune of being able to make strategic investments m services to enhance the community. These include more housing support, additional fire and EMS protection, expanded local transit options, extensive community infrastructure investment, support for those in need, and a strong commitment for a high-performing public school system. While the community has strongly supported these improvements, they have resulted in General Fund expenditures growing by an average of 7.4% a year. This level of growth is not sustainable for the long-term. Thus, for FY 2006 I am requesting no new program expansion and a tightening of expenditures for existing programs. Program budgets will be limited only to those increases necessary for existing staff and non-personnel costs for which there is a contractual commitment. If these commitments exceed resources available, targeted reductions may be considered to sustain essential core services. The Citizen Survey results soon will be available and could provide departments with some guidance on core and emerging needs.

Respond to Strategic and Emerging Needs. While we seek to sustain core services, we should not assume that what we have done in the past will meet the needs for the future. A great challenge for all large organizations is to admit when programs or approaches have outlived their value and reallocate resources to meet the needs of today and tomorrow. It is always much easier to just ask for more resources. More resources are not realistic and do not represent good stewardship of the public's assets. Thus, I ask all agencies to assess critical unmet needs and examine ways to reallocate from less valuable efforts to those that can better achieve the County's vision.


I have noted many times how fortunate we are in Arlington. We are in a position to provide literally any public service the public wants. We cannot, however, provide every public service. The budget process is fundamentally a decision-making process the most critical decision-making process in government.

Ultimately, it will fall to our elected leaders to make the really hard decisions that balance all of the competing needs and desires that make a world-class, urban community. It is our job to give them the best possible professional analysis to ensure the options before them are efficient, effective, equitable, and sustainable. Thank you in advance for your cooperation, assistance, and leadership.

This page was last revised on: September 27, 2004.
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