- Currently, Arlington’s Board Chair makes just under $60,000 annually and members make just over $53,000. While all five Board members work long hours—sometimes seven days a week—the jobs were never intended to be full-time, unlike those in Fairfax County (pop. 1.2 million), Montgomery County (pop. 1.1 million) and the District (pop. 700,000).I believe that County Board work is a public service position in our County of 225,000 people, not a full-time professional career sinecure. Candidates (and there is never a shortage of talented individuals vying for open seats) know exactly how much the pay is ahead of filing for office, and if they are paying attention, they have a good idea of what the job entails and what the time commitments are. All Board members also receive generous health care benefits, life insurance, and, in their second terms, become vested in an equally generous retirement plan. They can also have use of a County vehicle for County business.
- I do, however, think that we should begin a conversation, as some citizens have suggested, about whether Arlington could benefit from expanding Board membership to seven members, perhaps with a combination of at-large and district seats (say two at-large, five by district, or three at-large, four by district), like many localities both larger and smaller than Arlington do. The City of Alexandria, Falls Church, and Fairfax City all have seven Council members, Loudoun has nine Board members and Fairfax County has ten.Expanded membership, with some by district, would open opportunity for public service to more people, reduce campaign fundraising demands, spread Board workload among more members, and improve accountability by fostering greater closeness between voters and their representatives by district. At the same time, having a few members elected County-wide would help ensure that the Board Chair and another member or two have a true County-wide perspective. What do you think?
Yet even the Manager’s proposed 1.5 cent hike was not enough for the County Board. After one Board member openly mused that advertising up to a 3% hike should be on the table for “maximum flexibility,” the Board voted 4-1 to advertise a 2.75 cent jump—nearly double the Manager’s recommendation—and, if adopted, the highest leap since 2011. Only Katie Cristol, to her credit, voted no, after making a motion that failed 1-4 to dial back the advertised increase to 2 cents.
While I believe that some increase in the property tax rate this year is inevitable given still-rising school enrollment and the coming online of three new or expanded buildings in the fall (Alice West Fleet Elementary, Dorothy Hamm Middle in the former Stratford Building and The Heights, for the H-B Woodlawn program), our leaders need to remember that rising property tax burdens are making Arlington increasingly unaffordable for an expanding number of current and prospective homeowners and renters alike.
- For a clinical but informative look at the proposed budget, and to learn how you can send a message to the Board, either online or by speaking in person on either April 2 or April 4, 2019, at the Bozman Center, 2100 Clarendon Boulevard, be sure to visit the budget website, and please share your perspective with me.
- Arlington’s Scott McCaffrey opined in the Sun Gazette, that my November defeat was read as “a sign to Democrats on the County Board that they could return to business as usual, taking property owners for granted.”