The Arlington County budget picture is not as bleak as it was last year, but there are still tough decisions ahead---for both the County Board and the community. The expected school-county budget gap is $25--35 million, with the true extent of the gap to be disclosed when the County Manager presents her Proposed Budget to the County Board in a few weeks. Last year's successful coalition efforts
Last year AHS was part of an informal coalition that shared information and common messages at critical periods in the budget cycle. As a result of the efforts, the Board restored many threatened cuts to safety net and other important social programs. For example, the Housing Grants rental assistance program received an additional $500,000 (with $305,000 of the new funds coming as a result of the Homeowner Grant program shutdown, ) and the Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF) was given "one-time" additional funding of $500,000.
The conscience of a community
There are sound dollars-and-cents reasons to support these programs. We know anecdotally and through research that a "robust nonprofit sector produces cost savings to society, multiplies impact by leveraging public, corporate and philanthropic assets". But adequately funding affordable housing programs, for example, is compelled if a community is to live up to its stated vision to be a "caring, learning, participating, sustainable community in which each person is important".
Last year, the County Board stepped up and raised real property taxes and other taxes and fees to help bridge that gap and prevent vital service cuts. While the medicine may not be as bitter this year, at least a spoonful or two will be needed.
We'll keep you posted through the News page and Blog on this site. Link here to the 2012 County budget webpage.