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Candidate presses Arlington leaders to be fiscally responsible

Clement: If Fairfax can cut its tax rate, Arlington should be able to, as well

“Why can’t Arlington be more like Fairfax County?” is not a phrase one hears too often in the corridors of power across Arlington.

But in at least one case, a County Board candidate believes Arlington officials should have followed their Fairfax counterparts this year.

Audrey Clement, making her latest bid for County Board as an independent, on May 1 criticized the incumbent Arlington County Board for gouging taxpayers by not reducing the real-estate-tax rate despite ever-increasing home assessments.

She pointed out that, due to the decision, a typical homeowner would see a 2023 local-tax burden of $12,650. (Clement used the GazetteLeader’s estimate, based on a homeowner with a $1 million property.)

Clement pointed to neighboring Fairfax County, which managed to trim its real-estate tax rate from $1.11 per $100 assessed valuation to $1.095 per $100.

“That in combination with other tax-rate reductions and exclusions will provide $113 million in tax relief to Fairfax County residents,” Clement said.

“I applaud the leadership [Fairfax County Board of Supervisors] Chairman Jeff McKay has demonstrated in making tax relief a priority,” Clement said. “But you don’t have to relocate to Fairfax County to get the benefit of sound leadership. If elected to the Arlington County Board, I will seek immediate tax relief for residents and businesses, while providing for a balanced budget.”

While Clement may be giving the Fairfax supervisors a bit too much credit for fiscal restraint – Fairfax homeowners for the most part will still pay more in real-estate taxes in 2023 than they did in 2022, owing to higher assessments – she is right that Fairfax, and most other Northern Virginia localities, have dropped tax rates somewhat as home prices have spiked during the COVID era.

Arlington has been an outlier; County Board members have generally refused to enact, or largely even consider, cutting the existing tax rate of $1.03 per $100 assessed valuation. As a result, the rate of growth in Arlington homeowners’ tax bills largely has exceeded the rate of growth in other Northern Virginia localities.

A resident of Westover, Clement has run for local office nearly continuously for a decade, most often for County Board. Last year, she received slightly less than 30 percent of the vote in a three-candidate field, finishing behind incumbent Democrat Matt de Ferranti.

Clement’s campaign signage currently can be seen among those planted in medians by Democrats vying in the June 20 county primary, but she will not be on the ballot until November’s general election. That’s when voters will select two candidates to succeed County Board members Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey, who are not seeking re-election.