Every year there are millions of dollars in surplus funds left over at the end of the fiscal year. I attended a budget round table to ask why these funds are never used to close the inevitable budget gap for the next fiscal year, instead of raising real estate taxes to cover the budget gap. Last year there were $17 million in surplus funds that were spent, and our taxes were increased to cover an $11 million budget gap. There was more than enough money to cover the budget gap without raising taxes. A county employee from the finance department was at this meeting, and if I understood him correctly, the board has a policy that requires them to spend this surplus. He said the board needs to change their policy. If this is indeed the policy, I would like the board to change the policy, and consider applying the surplus funds to the next budget cycle. All of these real estate tax increases are passed along to renters in the residential and commercial market. With the large commercial vacancy rate, and complaints about the high cost to rent an apartment in Arlington , necessitating an affordable housing fund, it seems the county board would make some effort not to raise the real estate tax rate every year.
At this same meeting, another resident mentioned that the policy requiring the board to spend the surplus stipulates that the money is to be spent on one-time items only. Every year, a large portion of the surplus funds is spent on affordable housing, which does not really qualify as a one-time event. Therefore, the board is violating it's own policy. I tried to find the policy online, but could not. If the board wants to spend more on affordable housing that is fine, they should just allocate that money in the regular budget process in a more transparent manner, where the amount shows up as a percentage of the budget.
Lastly, the questions above ask what we could live without. I could live without any more spending on public art. We borrow money to pave roads, yet spend the operating budget on plastic toys attached the sewage treatment fence, and now a used wind turbine.