In looking ahead for what Arlington will be facing in 2014, a number of issues have carried forward from last year:* Streetcar Controversy: Sparks will continue to fly in 2014 about the county's controversial plans to build a $310 million streetcar line along Columbia Pike. Now that federal officials have denied funding under the Small Starts program, county officials are expected to make another application for the New Starts Program. Meanwhile, two studies are underway to determine population trends along the Pike as well as operational details about where the electrical substations would be located. Many residents oppose the project as a boondoggle, and the politics of a special election this year are certain to be dominated by the issue. Special Election: After longtime County Board member Chris Zimmerman announced he would be stepping down to join Smart Growth America, three Democrats and an independent have emerged to stand before voters in a special election in March — Peter Fallon, Alan Howze and Cord Thomas. Democrats will choose their candidate in early February, although the general election is likely to be just as competitive because independent candidate John Vihstadt has the endorsement of a former chairman of the Arlington County Democratic Committee. Turnout is expected to be about 18 percent. Budgeting for the Future: In February, County Manager Barbara Donnellan is expected to present County Board members with a budget for fiscal year 2015 with no increase to the tax rate, which is currently $0.971 for every $100 of assessed value, including a sanitary district tax. In late 2013, the board directed her to limit growth in expenditures to no greater than 2 percent. She has also been directed to "eliminate duplication and inefficiencies." Board members are expected to debate how much money the county wants to spend on a new aquatics center at Long Bridge Park, a streetcar line along Columbia Pike and the appropriate level of funding for the arts center known as Artisphere. * Aquatics Center: Now that county officials have acknowledged that the annual operating subsidy for the new aquatics center is likely to be closer to $4 million a year than $1 million a year, County Board members will have to determine how much money they want to approve for the facility. Voters have already approved a $45 million bond referendum to help build the center, which will be located at Long Bridge Park. But the upcoming budget season is likely to include a discussion about how much the center should cost taxpayers, and what scale the center should be to fit that funding. Artisphere Future: How much money should county taxpayers invest in a Rosslyn art center known as Artisphere? That's a question that County Board members are about to debate in the upcoming budget season. Since the facility opened in 2010, county taxpayers have kicked in about $2 million a year. But now county leaders are moving forward with a new plan to remove about half of the regular funding and replace it with one-time money, a move toward withdrawing public money and letting the operation finance itself. A new foundation has been created to operate the center, but county officials must determine how long they want to help fund the operation until it becomes self-sustaining. Board Chickens Out: When faced with the issue of whether or not to allow backyard hens, members of the Arlington County Board laid an egg. After months of debate and controversy and scrambled alliances, elected leaders decided against changing the rules. Part of the problem was that one of the key recommendations of an advisory committee that investigated the issue was the recommendation that people who wanted to have backyard hens should first get permission from neighbors. The county attorney said that would not work, so the initiative stalled — at least for now. * Crowded Classrooms: School leaders in Arlington are struggling to accommodate about 1,000 new students this school year, a crunch that's sending school officials scrambling for teachers, assistants, administrators, equipment and relocatable classrooms. Over the summer, 25 new relocatable classrooms were installed in anticipation of the first day of class. If growth continues on projection and no changes are made to current capacity, school officials estimate, Arlington public schools will be at 120 percent capacity in 2018 with a shortage of 4,400 seats. * Future of Reevesland: Arlington County has owned an old dairy farm known as Reevesland for a decade, although little has been done with the property in that time. Over the summer, an urban agriculture task force had presented the County Board with a recommendation to transform the house into a learning center, which could cost as much as $1.3 million. County leaders have yet to take action on the recommendation, though, and the future of Reevesland remains in doubt. The property was the last remaining dairy farm in Arlington, a vestige of a time when agriculture dominated the county.