Arlington County, Virginia

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Transparency Grade
Budget Y
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Meetings Y
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Elected Officials
Administrative Officials
Permits, zoning Y
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Audits Y
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Contracts Y
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Public records Y
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Local taxes Y
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Transparency grading process
Arlington County is one of 95 counties in Virginia. The most recent estimate of its population was 212,038 residents[1], as of 2009. It is located directly across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., and the two of them are linked by several highway and railroad bridges. A major airport of Washington, D.C., Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, many Federal Government offices, including those of the Department of Defense, the Department of the Navy, the Drug Enforcement Agency, Arlington National Cemetery, and DARPA are located in Arlington County.[2]

The county was originally founded as Alexandria County on February 27, 1801 by passage of the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1801. Alexandria County along with the now-defunct Washington County were the two counties formed on that date within the District of Columbia. Due to issues involving congressional representation, abolition and economic decline, the county along with the then-Town of Alexandria were returned to the Commonwealth of Virginia in an act of the U.S. Congress which took effect in 1847. In 1920 the General Assembly of Virginia changed the name of the county to "Arlington County" in order to avoid confusion with Alexandria, which had become an independent city in 1870.

Arlington County is organized legally as one of the counties of Virginia. For purely statistical considerations, it is included with the nearby cities and counties as a city of the Washington Metropolitan Area by the U.S. Census Bureau. With a land area of 26-square miles, Arlington County is geographically the smallest self-governing county in the United States.[3]

In 2005, Arlington was ranked first among walkable cities in the United States by the American Podiatric Medical Association.[4] CNN Money ranked Arlington as the most educated city in 2006 with 35.7% of residents having held graduate degrees. Along with five other counties in Northern Virginia, Arlington ranked among the twenty American counties with the highest median household income in 2006.[5] In October 2008, BusinessWeek ranked Arlington as the safest city in which to weather a recession, with a 49.4% share of jobs in "strong industries."[6] In July 2009, CNN Money ranked Arlington second in the country in its listing of "Best Places for the Rich and Single."[7] In June 2010, Parenting magazine named Arlington as the "Best City for Families" in the country.[8]

Website evaluation

In 2011, the Arlington County earned a Sunny Awards for having a perfect website transparency score.

Main article: Evaluation of Virginia county websites

This website was reviewed on an unknown date.

The good

  • Budget
    • The most current budget is listed.
    • Budgets are archived for 6 years.[9]
  • Administrative Officials
    • Department heads are listed for each department.[10]
    • Contact information for administrative officials is provided including a mailing address, phone number, and personalized email.
  • Elected Officials
    • Elected officials are listed with a mailing address, phone number and personalized email.[11]
  • Meetings
    • Meeting minutes are archived for 10 years.[12]
    • Meeting agendas are archived for 10 years.[13]
    • A meeting calendar is available and names the times and locations of public meetings.[14]
  • Audits
    • The most recent audit is posted.
    • Audits dating back to 11 are available.[15]
  • Contracts
    • Bids and RFPs are posted online.
    • Approved contract statements are provided for vendors.[16]
  • Public Records
    • The public information officer is identified and maintained by the FOIA officer. This person provides a mailing address, phone number and personalized email.
    • A public records form is provided.
    • A fee schedule for documents is provided.[17]
  • Taxes
    • Tax revenues are broken down by federal, state, and local funding in the budget.
    • Local taxes, like property taxes, are available online.[18]
    • Residents are able to pay taxes online.[19]
  • Lobbying
  • Permits and zoning
    • Zoning ordinances are posted online.[21]
    • Permit applications can be downloaded on the site, along with information on how to apply for the permits.[22]

Elected Officials

Virginia County Board

The five-member County Board is the governing body of Arlington vested with its legislative powers. Members are elected at-large for staggered four year terms and the Chairmanship rotates annually.[23] The County Board makes general policy decisions for all County government functions which the Board-appointed County Manager administrates (e.g., public safety, trash collection, parks and recreation, libraries, etc.). It sets real estate, personal property and other tax rates, and establishes the work program for the County by adoption of an annual budget. The Board makes all land use and zoning decisions within the limitations imposed by the Code of Virginia. It oversees transportation policies related to such issues as widening, narrowing and repairing of County streets, sidewalks and bicycle trails.[24]

Its responsibilities include:[23]

  • Make County policy decisions that are administered by the County Manager[25]
  • Make land use and zoning decisions[26]
  • Set tax rates and annual County budget. See the County Board Guidance for the FY 2012 Budget.[27]
  • Respond to constituent concerns
  • Appoint community members to Advisory Commissions and Task Forces[28]
  • Appoint County Manager[25], County Attorney[29] and Clerk to the County Board
  • Serve on Regional Groups and Commissions

Board Salaries

The Chairman receives a salary of $53,900 and each Board member receives a salary of $49,000.[24]

Administrative Officials

County Manager

The current County Manager is Barbara Donnellan.[30]

The County Manager's Office provides professional recommendations to, and implements the vision and policies of the County Board; ensures high quality services, with outstanding customer service, at a good value to taxpayers; fosters economic and fiscal sustainability; and enhances Arlington's reputation as a high performing, learning, caring organization that operates in a manner consistent with its mission and values, making Arlington an employer of choice.[31]

The County Manager is the principal administrative officer of the County and is responsible for carrying out policies determined by the County Board, and for the day-to-day operations and management of a broad range of county services. These include those provided by the various departments, with the exception of the Schools, which as stipulated by the Virginia Constitution, come under the jurisdiction of the Superintendent of Schools and the School Board.[31]

Five divisions of the County Manager's Office:[31]

  • Constituent Services
  • Communications/Public Affairs
  • Human Rights
  • Legislative Affairs
  • Community Corrections

County Manager Salary

No specific salary number is given, but the county does list minimum and maximum annual salaries for County Managers, which are $100,000 and $200,000 respectively.[32]

County Employee Salaries and Benefits

The county provides a table with salary ranges for county positions. Below are the top five highest paid positions (based on maximum salary).

Title Max. Annual Salary
Physician Supervisor[35]
County Manager[36] $200,000
Assistant County Manager[37]
Chief Information Officer[38]
Department Director[39]
Pension Investment Officer[40] $181,438
Commonwealth Attorney[41] $163,716

Retirement plans


Full-time employees participate in the Arlington County Retirement System and contribute 4%-5% of pay. Employees become vested in the plan at five years of service, and may receive the benefit in the form of an annuity on retirement. The County contributes to this defined benefit plan. Also available is a supplemental defined contribution plan (401(a)) to which the County also contributes 1%-2% of pay. In addition, an optional Deferred Compensation Plan (457 plan) is offered with the County matching up to $20 per pay period. County employees are also eligible for Social Security.

For 2011, the county paid $43.2 million into the Arlington County Employee’s Supplemental Retirement System.[42]


For Arlington employees' other post-employment benefits, the county has accrued $202.5 million in unfunded liabilities.[42] For Schools OPEBs, the county has accrued $99 million in unfunded liabilities.[42]



For 2012, Arlington County's budget was $812.3 million for county government, plus $480.5 million for the school board, coming to a total budget of $1.293 billion.[43]

2012 Budget General Fund Expenditures[43]
Area % of General Fund Budget
Schools 38%
Management & Administration 4%
Courts & Constitutionals 6%
Public Safety 12%
Environmental Services 7%
Human Services 11%
Community Services 5%
Planning & Development 1%
Non-Departmental, Regionals, Metro 9%
Debt/Capital 7%
2012 Budget General Fund Revenues[43]
Category % of Total Revenues
Real Estate 53%
Transient Occupancy 2%
Service Charges 5%
Miscellaneous 3%
Federal 2%
Personal Property 10%
Fund Balance 2%
Meals Tax 3%
State 7%
Fees/Permits 1%
Local Sales Tax 4%
Other Local Taxes 4%


The Arlington County Board adopted a $955.9 million budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2010 that includes an 8.3-cent increase in the property tax rate. Board members said they listened to hundreds of residents who asked at budget Town Halls and public hearings that core services, funding for non-profits and funding for affordable housing be preserved as the County continues to cope with the economic downturn. Some key facts from the adopted budget include:

  • The Board raised the base real estate tax rate 8.0 cents, to $0.945 cents per $100 assessed value.
  • The stormwater tax rate was also increased by 0.3 cents to $1.3 cents per $100 of assessed value, for a blended tax rate of $0.958 cents.
  • The personal property tax rate will remain at $5 per $100 of assessed value.
  • Combined fee increases for water, sewer, trash, recycling and motor vehicle licensing totaled $71 a year.
  • The total impact of tax and fee changes for a household, on average, will be an increase of $346 a year, or $29 per month.
  • The Board voted to continue a Budget Stabilization Fund, setting aside $3.3 million for unexpected expenses or revenue shortfalls.
  • The Board also identified funding to increase the County’s General Fund Operating Reserve from 3.25% to 3.5% as a continued commitment to maintaining the County’s coveted triple-AAA bond rating.

The total budget, which includes appropriations to the Arlington Public Schools, as well as Utility Fund and other self-supported funds, is $1.2 billion, an increase of 0.4 percent from the FY 2010 revised budget.


Sales tax

The local sales tax rate is 1.0%, in addition to a statewide 4.0% sales tax.[43]

Real estate taxes

The county's base real estate tax is $0.945 per $100 in value, and with add-ons, the total real estate tax for Arlington County is $1.126 to $1.163.[43]


Main article:Virginia government sector lobbying

The county does not contract out for lobbying services -- all lobbying is performed by county employees.[44]


Between May 2009 and April 2010, Arlington County spent $25,474 on state-level lobbying efforts.[45]


Arlington County has reported $220,000 spent lobbying between 2001 and 2005 (see table).

Reported lobbying expenditures, 2001-2005[46]
Year Amount spent on lobbying
2005 $60,000
2004 -
2003 $120,000
2002 $20,000
2001 $20,000

Transparency and Public Records

Arlington County has a very user-friendly and explanatory page dedicated to FOIA requests.[47] The website outlines citizen FOIA rights, how to make a request, the process of fulfilling a request, costs, guidelines, exemptions, and more.

Arlington Police Department

According to an investigation by Connections Newspaper reporter Michael Pope, the police departments of Fairfax County, Alexandria, and Arlington are among the most secretive and non-transparent in the country. According to the reports, the departments' interpretation of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act in effect allows them reject nearly all information requests.[48][49]

External links

*Arlington County Website


  1. population
  2. departments
  3. county overview (dead link)
  4. walkable Arlington
  5. America's Richest Counties
  6. Some Cities Will Be Safer in a Recession
  7. Best Places for the Rich and Single
  8. Best Cities for Families
  9. Arlington County, Budgets, Accessed: January 7, 2013
  10. Arlington County, Staff Directory, Accessed: January 7, 2013
  11. Arlington County, Elected Officials, Accessed: January 7, 2013
  12. Arlington County, Meeting Minutes, Accessed: January 7, 2013
  13. Arlington County, Meeting Agendas, Accessed: January 7, 2013
  14. Arlington County, Meeting Calendar, Accessed: January 7, 2013
  15. Arlington County, Audits, Accessed: January 7, 2013
  16. Arlington County, Contracts, Accessed: January 7, 2013
  17. Arlington County, FOIA Requests, Accessed: January 7, 2013
  18. Arlington County, Taxes in Budgets, Accessed: January 7, 2013
  19. Arlington County, Pay Online, Accessed: January 7, 2013
  20. Arlington County, Lobbying, Accessed: January 7, 2013
  21. Arlington County, Zoning, January 7, 2013
  22. Arlington County, Building Permits, January 7, 2013
  23. 23.0 23.1 [1]
  24. 24.0 24.1 [2]
  25. 25.0 25.1 [3]
  26. [4]
  27. [5]
  28. [6]
  29. county attorney
  30. current manager
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 [7]
  32. [8]
  33. psychiatrist salary range
  34. physician salary range
  35. physician supervisor salary range
  36. county manager salary range]
  37. asst. county manager salary range
  38. CIO salary range
  39. department director salary range
  40. pension investment officer salary range
  41. commonwealth attorney salary range
  42. 42.0 42.1 42.2 Arlington County, "2011 CAFR," accessed November 28, 2011
  43. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named budg
  44. Arlington County, "Federal and state advocacy," accessed November 27, 2011
  45. Arlington County, "Lobbying Clients," accessed November 27, 2011
  46. Open Secrets
  47. FOIA requests
  48. "Trust Me: You Can Trust Us," Reason Magazine, August 30, 2010
  49. "Transparency Blackout: Police departments in Northern Virginia refuse to release public documents," Alexandria Gazette Packet, March 18, 2010