Wednesday, March 16, 2011

innovative Arlington tax collecting

Arlington County Treasurer Frank O'Leary gave a fact-filled presentation at Rosslyn's Radnor-Fort Myer Heights Civic Association (RAFOM) meeting on Tuesday night.  O'Leary described a variety of payment options that he has established for Arlingtonians to encourage on-time payment of taxes, parking tickets, utility bills, and other fees.  These include drop-box, mail-in check, telephone credit-card payment, automatic debit, Internet-based payment, and financial services that do not require the establishment of a bank account.  O'Leary recounted an amusing story of how Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Berger motivated the automatic debit option and became its first user.  He also described the rapid increase in Internet payment transactions.  Internet-based payments now account for 21% of all payment transactions for the Arlington Treasurer.  Recently instituted County Treasurer services include bill-payer notification, telephone reminders, and iPark cashless parking-payment devices.

O'Leary pointed to two ways in which Arlington could significantly reduce expenses and increase revenue.  O'Leary stated that the separate organizations of the Arlington County Board and the Arlington School Board involve considerable wasteful duplication in support functions.  In addition, O'Leary felt that the efficiency of parking ticket administration could be improved.  He judged that effectively administering existing parking laws could raise an additional $1-2 million in revenue.

A resident asked if combining the offices of the Commissioner of the Revenue and the Treasurer would save expenses. The Commissioner of Revenue sets and adjudicates tax obligations.  The Treasurer, in contrasts, collects the taxes that Commissioner of Revenue has established. O'Leary noted that both these offices are constitutional offices, so they could not be combined without constitutional amendment.  O'Leary argued that separation of these offices is an important structural safeguard.  A combined organization could forebear on individual taxes to obscure its poor collection efforts.

The video below includes much of O'Leary's presentation.  For additional factual material, see the Commissioner of Revenue/Treasurer Report to the Citizens, 2010-2011.

Other items from the RAFOM meeting:
  • The second public meeting for the Meade Street Bridge Study will be on Tuesday, Mar. 22, 6:30-8:30pm at Arlington Temple, 1835 N. Nash St., Rosslyn.  Now is the time to share your ideas for improving the safety and accessibility of the Meade St. Bridge. 
  • The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing has put forward a proposal to preserve affordable units in the Marbella Apartments.  The matter probably will come before the County Board in May.
The next RAFOM meeting will be on Apr. 19.  It will focus on transportation issues.

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