First, thank you to all who helped make my 66th birthday special!
We Passed a Budget
April is always a busy month with our budget. We adopted the budget with a 1.5 cent increase on the tax rate. This was 1/2 a cent less than the Manager’s original proposal. To find the 1/2-cent, we delayed some increases in staffing in various departments and used some one-time money to fund our schools. But in this budget, we were able to fund the schools fully, increase support for public safety, and begin a program to repair and maintain our streetlights.
This was a relatively easy budget year. I am concerned about the future, however, especially the risk that we confront the trifecta of slashes to federal funding, large increases in Metro and schools’ costs, and large numbers of residents losing federal employment. I hope that none of this will happen, but we need to prepare now for any or all. And so, I plan to work with my colleagues and staff over the next months to plan how we will prioritize our budget if we find ourselves with this situation in the coming years.
I also want to mention that we increased our County Board member salaries by the same 3.5% that we increased the salaries for many of our County employees. I believe we need a community discussion of how much Board members are paid, and what we, as a community, expect in return. At the moment, County Board member is considered to be a part-time job, and we are presumed to have outside jobs as well. I believe the responsibilities of this job and the community’s expectations of us make it a full-time job. For many years, Board members held little outside employment, allowing them to devote their full time to County Board work. With our new Board, we have younger members with significant outside jobs and families. The balance is difficult to keep. I’m fine with my widow’s pension and few obligations at home, but I am concerned that finances keep many good people from running because they simply cannot afford it. In the long run, I believe this is not good for Arlington. We need permission from Richmond to raise our salaries beyond about $55,000 and must ask that permission in the year two Board seats are up (2019). So we have time to talk about it, and I hope this email helps spark the discussion. Let me know what you think.
April is Donate Life Month
April is also Donate Life month, which I always recognize. Last year Christer Ahl came and spoke about his need for a new kidney. This year he came with a new kidney to express his gratitude and to encourage everyone to “donate life.” I do not need any donations, but I am getting a new knee in May. This will slow me down a bit, but I expect to do fine after several weeks of recovery and physical therapy. I plan to participate electronically in our May meeting.
County Board & School Board Caucus – May 9th, 11th, and 13th
Don’t forget to vote in the Democratic caucus for School Board and County Board. If you have questions about the candidates, contact me and I’ll be happy to share my thoughts.
I hope everyone enjoys the spring.
Please join me, Delegate Patrick Hope, Commissioner of the Revenue Ingrid Morroy, and others this Monday, May 1 at an event for Susan Platt, candidate for Lt. Governor. Susan has been involved in politics for years, was Chief of Staff to Joe Biden in the Senate, and manager for Chuck Robb’s Senate campaign. She has many ties throughout Virginia. I think she can win and will be a great Lt. Governor.