A combination of rising assessments and a higher tax rate will leave Arlington homeowners scrounging in their pockets and under the sofa cushions to find the hundreds of dollars more required to feed the county government for another year.
County Board members voted April 17 to increase the tax rate from $1.026 per $100 to $1.03 per $100 due to a higher surcharge for stormwater projects.
When coupled with an average home-assessment increase of 5.6 percent over the past year, the owner of a home assessed at $900,000 in 2020 – who had a tax bill of $9,234 – saw that assessment rising to $950,040 and soon will be receiving a tax bill of $9,789. That’s an increase of 6 percent, the latest in a long line of increases far outrunning the rate of inflation.
As was the case last year, as well, county officials had the chance to reduce tax rates to compensate for higher assessments, but decided they needed the funds more than residents did. The fiscal 2022 budget plan, which kicks in over the summer, totals $1.4 billion.
County staff will get a one-time $1,450 bonus plus a 1-percent pay raise as part of the package. Many employees went without a pay raise in the current year’s budget.
The increased surcharge for stormwater (rising from 1.3 cents per $100 to 1.7 cents) will help fund ancillary costs associated with a $51 million stormwater bond referendum approved by voters last fall.
The adopted tax rates align with the proposal made last winter by County Manager Mark Schwartz, giving credence to critics who contend staff is leading elected officials rather than the other way around.
The ever-increasing tax burden may fuel fears that Arlington is morphing into a community that in the future will only be able to maintain enclaves of wealth coupled with low-income residents subsidized by various means, while pushing out the middle class. Others will counter that because of declines in assessments of commercial properties over the past year due to the pandemic, this was a year when the residential segment of the tax base was going to have to pick up the slack to fund county-government services.
The county government’s fiscal 2022 budget goes into effect July 1, although the real-estate tax rate set by the government will cover calendar-year 2021. Property owners pay their real-estate taxes in two equal installments in June and October.