Updates from Letty – April 12, 2019

Blog posts are the personal views of Letty Hardi and not official statements or records on behalf of the Falls Church City Council

Dear Friends,

After a marathon meeting + work session combo, this week’s post will be short and sweet. We are on hiatus from public meetings next week, but there is no rest for the weary. Here are the big dates to keep in mind:

  • City staff moves back to City Hall: city offices (temporary offices at 400 N. Washington) will be closed next Friday 4/19 and Monday 4/22 for packing and moving back into the renovated City Hall building (300 Park Ave). City Hall will reopen on Tuesday 4/23. More details about the move and opening day are available here.
  • April 22 – we resume City Council meetings (still in Community Center) and adopt the FY20 Budget
  • May 13 – target final vote and approval for West Falls Church (aka 10 acre) project and comprehensive agreement, ahead of the new high school groundbreaking in June

Several members of City Council will be at the annual MEH career fair today. Last year, I had so much fun with this young generation of constituents, so I’m looking forward to spending the morning with them again. If you have a middle schooler, ask what they learned and if they took interest in civics or a government career!


PS – Need an activity for tomorrow morning? This awesome spring weather means it’s a great time to help beautify our city. Join the Spring Community Clean Up tomorrow morning, Saturday 4/13 at 10 am. This is a good volunteer opportunity for community groups, church groups, students fulfilling service hours, and families with little ones who need to get out of the house and move their bodies!


What Happened This Week:

(1) Budget Mark Up

Budget markup is typically the final meeting before budget adoption – we work through the tactical revisions to the budget raised in prior work sessions to prepare the budget for a final vote. With no tax rate increase planned this year, the only way budgets are growing are through the organic revenue growth from increased property values. This year’s markup discussion centered around the senior tax relief program. I already wrote extensively last week about tax relief, so if you’ve missed it – go check it out.

There are many options to expand and modify the senior tax relief program – encouraging more deferrals, changing income and asset limits, changing relief amounts, phasing in changes, etc. Based on the timelines presented, we have time to further iterate on the details of how to update the program, after the budget is adopted on 4/22. What we do need to decide is whether we will invest in the program in the budget. If budgets reflect our priorities, then I believe we should be willing to appropriate the additional $60K (out of the $99M total operating budget) as a commitment to generational and socioeconomic diversity. As we make huge investments in the city elsewhere – are we, as one of the wealthiest and most educated communities in the US, willing to lift up our most vulnerable?

Send your thoughts to us.

(2) Work Session on West Falls Church (WFC) Project

We had a meaty work session on the WFC project with members of the Planning Commission, Economic Development Authority (EDA), and our development partner. We reviewed compiled comments from staff and our Boards and Commissions, which the developer said will be incorporated as possible in their resubmission plans at the end of next week. We also discussed key terms of the comprehensive agreement, which is the legal document that governs the land transaction.

There are too many documents to link, but click through to the documents under #15 on the agenda to get a sense of the complexity of this project and check out the comments being considered. The April Sunday Series Town hall will actually be on a Monday night, April 29, where you can get the latest news on both the high school and WFC project and ask questions. Or you can also email us in the meantime.

(3) Welcoming new businesses…and why it matters

Old news by now, but we welcomed both Kiln & Kustard and Bakeshop officially to Falls Church this past week. Aside from my personal affinity for coffee and croissants – attracting grocers and food businesses has been a deliberate economic development strategy for us. In the face of a rapidly changing retail environment, dining, fitness, grocers, and “experiential retail” have remained pretty resilient – ie, what can’t be delivered via Amazon Prime. And this strategy pays off: our sales and meals tax have been rising healthily in recent years and together, they represent about 9% of our total revenues, in addition to the quality of life benefits of having more options in town.

Pop quiz: since 2015, we’ve added five local, small business cafes (much to every coffee lover’s delight) and three large grocers to the Little City. Can you name them all? And will you commit to visit each one and #shoplocal this month?


What’s Coming Up:

  • Friday, April 18 and Monday, April 22 – City Hall closed
  • Monday April 22 – City Council Meeting (730 pm, Community Center)
  • Tuesday, April 23 – City Hall reopens at 300 Park Ave
  • Friday, April 26 – Campus Coordinating Committee Meeting (730 am, School Board Office)
  • Monday, April 29 – “Sunday Series” (730 pm, Community Center)
  • Monday, May 6 – City Council Work Session (730 pm, Community Center)
  • Monday, May 13 – City Council Meeting (730 pm, Community Center)