ARLINGTON – (WMAL) Property taxes are going up in Arlington County.
County Board members voted Saturday to increase the county’s property tax by 1.5 cents for every $100 of assessed value in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget. That was whittled down from the original proposal of two cents, Board Chairman Jay Fisette said. He said every cent from the increase will be used to help schools grapple with a growing student population and pay for Metro. The Board also voted to raise Board salaries by 3.5 percent.
Some on the Board expressed a reluctance to raise property taxes. While Board member Christian Dorsey maintained Arlington’s property tax is still one of the lowest in the region, he said he understands the burden some families face.
“Growth in real estate values have been a constant in Arlington,” he said. “So despite nominal, low tax rates, taxpayers have been experiencing the steady climb up, and that doesn’t always jive with their incomes or individual family circumstances.”
Board member John Vihstadt said tax increases cannot be a fallback measure for everything in the future.
“We must question whether significant annual tax hikes to meet enrollments is sustainable. In my view, it’s not,” he said. “With the new and uncertain national climate, some of our federal employees in Arlington will lose their jobs, and others will lose federal contracts. How will they pay their rise in taxes?”
Vihstadt also positioned himself as an outspoken opponent of previously-agreed upon raises for the board, the first in six years.
“I just find it a little anomalous that, at the very time we are going to be imposing a fairly sizeable property tax increase…that we’re able to find the money ourselves to help us cope with that increase, but the community doesn’t have such a luxury,” he said.
Vihstadt failed in his attempt to single out the Board’s salary increase for a vote from the overall salary package for county employees. Dorsey defended the salary increase, saying the increase is so minimal that it doesn’t even reach the cost-of-living rate change over those six years.
“This is, in fact, not a raise,” Dorsey said. “This is a salary adjustment.”
Fisette seemed irritated that the salary debate was brought to the forefront, after the rest of the budget was hashed out behind closed doors.
“There were so many more important things we dealt with, and this was 100 percent just political posturing,” he said. “It’s disappointing to me.”
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