New Arlington County government auditor

Chris Horton serves as Arlington County auditor, employed by the County Board.

Are economic-incentive funds provided to corporations by the Arlington County government being doled out in accordance with agreements? The county government’s auditor is going to take a look.

Reviewing Arlington Economic Development’s monitoring of incentive funds for compliance with agreed-upon requirements of the incentive packages will be on the to-do list of auditor Chris Horton in coming months. The project was part of Horton’s 2019-20 action plan, presented to and approved by the County Board on June 18.

The audit, already under way, will look only at whether terms of agreements are being complied with; overall effectiveness of the sometimes controversial economic-incentive policy “is not part of the scope,” Horton said. And the county government’s economic package with Amazon will not be studied, because its intricacies will go into effect too late for review.

Completion of the audit is expected by the end of the year, Horton said.

For years, the Arlington government not only avoided providing economic incentives to entice or retain corporations, but rather grandly looked down it nose at nearby localities that did so. Changing regional economic conditions over the past decade, including a major spike in Arlington’s office-vacancy rate, led to a course reversal.

The economic-incentive audit is just one of a number planned or ongoing by Horton. Also being studied in coming months: overtime in the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office and the real-estate assessment and appeals process.

Placed on the back burner is a study of funds provided to the county’s business-improvement districts. It had been on Horton’s work plan last year but fell to the wayside due to other pressing business.

The auditor is one of the very few Arlington government employees who works directly for the County Board rather than for the county manager. Horton, who is the second person to hold the post, presents his annual work plan to board members in June, and presents reports as audits are completed.