Arlington homeowners may want to start now scrounging under the sofas for loose change, as they’re going to be paying more to the county government in taxes this year.
County Manager Mark Schwartz on Feb. 12 proposed a $1.47 billion fiscal 2023 overall county spending plan – up 5.5 percent from the current budget – that leaves the existing tax rate of $1.03 per $100 assessed value unchanged.
If that tax-rate decision is ratified by County Board members, a typical homeowner will end up paying more, owing to higher assessments.
In relatively brief remarks at the end of a lengthy and at times contentious County Board meeting focused on development topics, Schwartz said his budget was in line with expectations of elected officials.
“The County Board laid out guidance in October, which I’ve done my best to follow,” he said.
The budget breaks down into two broad areas:
• $894 million to fund government operations, up 3.6 percent from the current spending package.
• $576 million as a transfer to the county school system, up 8.7 percent.
The schools transfer was up more than three times the 2.5-percent rate of expected student growth, and comes as school leaders are backing off previous projections of significant future growth in the system.
As part of the budget, Schwartz also is recommending an $11 decline in the annual cost of trash collection for homes in single-family neighborhoods, but that will be offset by increases in water/sewer rates that are expected to bump up an average of $31 for a typical household.
The budget proposal is the first part of an annual dance that will culminate with adoption of a fiscal 2023 budget in late April.
“We are going to spend the next two months, three months, engaged in additional analysis,” County Board Chairman Katie Cristol said.
Public hearings on tax rates and the budget are slated for March 29 and 31.
While the county government budgets on a July-to-June fiscal year, property assessments are established on a calendar-year basis, with two equal installments due in late spring and early autumn. Whatever tax rate is adopted for 2022 – higher, lower or unchanged – will be retroactive to the start of the year.
Arlington officials on Jan. 13 reported an increase of 5.8 percent in overall value of residential real estate in the county, on top of 5.6 percent in 2021 and 4.3 percent in 2020. Those two years, the base real-estate tax rate remained at $1.013 per $100; in 2021, the mandatory surcharge for stormwater management was raised from 1.3 cents per $100 to 1.7 cents.
Without a decrease in the tax rate this year, many owners of single-family homes will have seen their tax bills increase about 15 percent (to a typical $10,500 a year for a single-family property) in the past three years.
While residential assessments were up, the total value of commercial property rose just 0.6 percent, with some rebound in the apartment and hotel sectors largely offset by lower assessments in office and retail properties. That disparity with residential increases pushes more of the tax burden onto the shoulders of homeowners.
What might have made for an interesting wrinkle in the annual budget dance was a proposal this year by state Sen. John Cosgrove (R-Chesapeake), who introduced legislation to require all Virginia local governments to hold voter referendums if the net effective tax burden on property owners grew by more than 1 percent on a year-over-year basis.
Cosgrove’s measure, however, was killed off in subcommittee, and even in the unlikely event it had made it into law, wouldn’t have been applicable to the current year’s budget process.