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Homeowners will need to dig deeper to fund record county budget

Typical property owner will see a 7.5% increase when higher assessments are coupled with increased tax rate, stormwater surcharge

A typical Arlington homeowner will see his or her property-tax bill rise about 7.5 percent this year, when rising assessments are coupled with an effective 2-cent increase in the real-estate tax adopted April 20 by County Board members.

The extra funds will support a record $1.65 billion county budget that board chairman Libby Garvey called "practical and caring." But for homeowners, it marks the first time in the COVID/post-COVID era that they have received a double-whammy of higher assessments and a higher tax rate.

And that may just be the start, as the county government grapples with major problems in its commercial-real-estate sector.

Somewhat or completely empty buildings are leading to lower assessments on those properties, which unless the county government is willing to ease its appetite for taxpayer cash is likely to continue to push the tax burden more and more onto homeowners. The commercial-office sector, which for decades had been Arlington's golden goose, seems ready to morph into an albatross.

While the board's action on April 20 involved the fiscal 2025 budget that goes into effect July 1, tax rates are retroactive to the start of the calendar year. With the rate now set, the county treasurer will begin preparing bills for property owners, with a first-installment payment due in June.

New for this year: Homeowners who in years past all paid a tax surcharge for stormwater-abatement services based on the value of their property will now pay a fee based on the impermeable surface of their property. As a result, what last year had been a tax rate of $1.03 per $100 assessed valuation, including stormwater costs, this year will be a tax rate of $1.033, with stormwater costs billed separately.

Assuming homeowners pay essentially the same for stormwater under the new system as they did under the old, that would work out to an equivalent tax rate of $1.05 per $100 for this year.