Arlington County Board 2016

2017 Arlington County Board members, from left, are Christian Dorsey, John Vihstadt, Libby Garvey, Chairman Jay Fisette and Vice Chairman Katie Cristol. (Arlington government photo)

The Arlington County Civic Federation is pressing the county government to slice just a little bit more off the real-estate tax rate.

Delegates voted 22-14 April 5 to support a resolution calling for a cut of 1 cent off the existing rate of 99.6 cents per $100 assessed value. That would be a half-cent more than the cut proposed by County Manager Mark Schwartz.

The penny-cut proposal came from the federation’s revenues-and-expenditures committee, which long has been a bastion of fiscal conservatism within the organization. The vote took place after not a single delegate opted to speak for or against the idea – a rarity at Civic Federation meetings.

Cutting the tax rate to 98.6 cents per $100 can be accomplished “with little if any impact” to the billion-dollar county budget, said Burton Bostwick, who sits on the committee.

(Committee members voted 7-1, with one abstention, to recommend the tax-rate cut to the full federation, and handed out a list of potential budget actions that could add up to a one-cent reduction.)

A one-cent cut in the tax rate would equate to a $50 savings for the owner of a home assessed at a half-million dollar, and would cut about $7 million from the county government’s coffers.

The proposal is “certainly responsible,” said Arlington County Taxpayers Association president Tim Wise, who sits on the revenues-and-expenditures committee and would have supported a greater cut if it had been offered.

Under Schwartz’s proposed fiscal 2017 budget, the typical Arlington homeowner will see a total cost for local taxes and fees of $7,859 this year, up about $219 from a year before. Over the past five years, the average tax burden has grown $1,113.

Restraining the growth would be a benefit to the public, said Suzanne Sundburg, a Civic Federation delegate who supported the proposal. “Taxes do push up the cost of housing – to renters as well as homeowners,” she said.

County Board members earlier this year advertised a maximum tax rate of 99.6 cents per $100 – unchanged from a year before – but indicated they were supportive of Schwartz’s plan to slice a half-cent off the rate. County Board Chairman Libby Garvey has indicated she hopes the board can make a larger cut in the rate.

County Board members will adopt their fiscal 2017 budget, and set tax rates, later in the spring. The real-estate tax is pro-rated into two halves, which are due in June and October.

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