Arlington County manager proposes 2022 budget that would freeze tax rate and raise employee wages

Most county employees who “meet expectations” would receive 4.25% merit raises, county spokeswoman Jessica Baxter said. Uniformed employees — including police, firefighters and sheriff’s deputies — would receive a 6.5% wage increase, and all permanent full-time workers would receive net bonuses of around $1,000.

Schools in the county would receive $576 million, an increase of $46 million — or 8.7% — from last year.

The budget represents an overall 5.5% increase in spending over Arlington’s plan for the previous fiscal year, which runs from July through June. Although county tax revenue is expected to increase by 7%, Schwartz said at a county board meeting on Saturday, there is still uncertainty about hotel taxes and non-tax revenue sources such as parking meters. .

The county is required to pay a portion of any increased hotel tax revenue to Amazon, as part of a cemented incentive package to bring the company’s East Coast headquarters to Arlington. Given a drop in revenue during the pandemic, Arlington did not pay any inducements to the tech giant over the past two years. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Schwartz said the budget was intended to reward Arlington’s staff, made up of nearly 4,000 public employees, who have allowed the county to operate — in many cases from front-line jobs — without a significant increase in pay. merit salaries over the past two years. Last year’s budget provided a 1% wage increase for county employees.

With inflation driving up the cost of living and the pandemic transforming workplaces, he said the county needs to focus on recruiting and retaining its public sector employees.

“How do we compensate our employees at a time when the way of working in our country has changed? Employees are no longer physically tied to one location. They can pick up and move around,” he said. “That’s the biggest challenge I think we face.”

Dramatic property assessment increases in neighboring jurisdictions such as Loudoun County could mean those governments — newly overwhelmed with money — might be able to attract employees, Schwartz added.

The budget proposal would also increase the minimum and maximum salaries for each position by 3%, so new hires would start at a higher entry rate and the highest paid employees could earn up to 3% more.

As in neighboring Alexandria, first responders in Arlington protested minimal wage increases. The Arlington Firefighters Union has warned that burnout and stagnating wages could cause a possible exodus of the department.

Public sector unions are expected to engage in labor negotiations with the county later this year for the first time in decades, though that process is only expected to affect the fiscal year 2024 budget. Schwartz’s proposal calls for 470 $000 for three full-time positions to negotiate on behalf of Arlington during negotiations.

In a sign that Arlington is also looking beyond the pandemic, environmental programs would receive the second-largest funding increase.

Schwartz’s proposal allocates an additional $4.4 million for programs to address climate change, including $1 million for an energy action fund that could electrify county vehicles and fund energy efficiency projects . Arlington has committed to relying only on renewable energy in county operations by 2025.

The county council is due to vote Tuesday on whether to announce the tax rate of $1.013 per $100 of assessed value.

The budget presentation came at the end of a 12-hour meeting in which council members voted to approve the Pentagon City Area Plan, which sets out a vision for the next decades of growth in the neighborhood of South Arlington.

More than 110 residents provided public testimony about the plan, many of whom spoke out against a provision that would allow developers to triple the number of units at RiverHouse, the county’s largest apartment complex.

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