Updates from Letty – April 29, 2016

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,

What a week it’s been! The big news of course was the FY17 budget vote, my first and a tough one (are there ever any easy budgets?) Reasonable people can disagree, and I am grateful for not only the kind words and support I’ve received, but also the healthy and constructive discussions before and after our Monday vote. I appreciate those who have led by example and kept the discourse respectful and kind. There is something about budget season that pits neighbor against neighbor, and I hope we all take this weekend to pause and reflect. I truly believe we are all trying to do what we think is best for the community and I hope everyone can see the positive intent behind actions and votes.

I promised a briefer update this week, so I’ve embedded links to documents if you want to dive deeper into specifics. If you read nothing else in this week’s update, I encourage you to read my remarks before Monday night’s vote and feel free to reach out with follow up questions or thoughts.



What Happened This Week:

City Council Budget Adoption – the facts: as you may have already heard or read, the City Council voted 4-3 to adopt a budget that keeps the real estate tax rate at $1.315/$100 assessed value. As I wrote last week, the implication is that both the General Government and School budget requests would be reduced $400K and $900K, respectively. The memo linked includes the list of the reductions in the General Government budget is making while the School Board is working on revisions to their budget. To be clear, there aren’t any “cuts” to anyone’s budgets. Both budgets are growing from last year. The school budget transfer amount would increase about $1.4MM compared to last year (3.6% increase) for a total school budget of $47.7MM, which is slightly ahead of the projected student enrollment growth of 3.4%. Last year’s enrollment growth was a very modest 2.2%. General government budget is growing by $850K or 2.4% increase.

We also approved the 5 year CIP, increased the personal property tax rate from $4.84 to $5.00 which brings us in line with Arlington and Alexandria’s rate,  increased the stormwater and sewer utility fees to fund increased operating and capital expenses, and increased the cigarette tax.

My thoughts:  this was not a decision any of us took lightly, and one which with I personally struggled. To those who supported me during my City Council campaign and are surprised or disappointed by my vote – I hope you supported me because you thought I was thoughtful, analytical, and diligent and would weigh every decision carefully with the entire community and long term in mind. That is the person who cast the vote on Monday. I posted my remarks from Monday night in an earlier blog post. If you haven’t read it yet, I hope you’ll take some time to read what went into my consideration.

What’s Coming Up:

Upcoming City Council Meetings – City Council gets a week off next week; the original plan was to reconvene next Monday with the School Board on the GMHS campus planning project but due to scheduling conflicts, a new date is TBD. The next regular City Council meeting will be May 9, where we plan to tackle two key agenda items among several others: charter for the Streetscape Design Task Force and Miller House comprehensive agreement.

Mount Daniel Community Meeting – Wed May 4 at 7 pm, Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School – there is a new community meeting scheduled to give an update on Mt. Daniel and answer questions.

Transform I-66 Community Meetings – for those following this project, there are many components proposed to I-66 for both inside and outside the Beltway to alleviate congestion and better manage travel demand. The project involves converting I-66 inside the Beltway between I-495 and Rosslyn to dynamic toll lanes on weekdays between 5:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. in the eastbound direction and 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. in the westbound direction. Beginning in 2017, Single Occupancy Vehicles (SOVs) will be allowed to use the lanes during the restricted hours by paying a toll, and vehicles with two or more occupants (HOV-2+) will be able to use the lanes for free. Beginning in 2021, when the express lanes on I-66 outside the Beltway opens, both SOVs and HOV-2 will be required to pay a toll to use the lanes, and HOV-3+ will not be tolled. Also of note that will be impactful to Falls Church is the proposed widening to a four-mile stretch of I-66 from the Dulles Connector Road to Ballston is to help address an eastbound chokepoint where traffic merges onto I-66 from the Dulles Connector Road. More info here: http://inside.transform66.org/

There are two public meetings scheduled to discuss the widening component of the project:

Meeting Times: 6:30-8:30 p.m. (Presentation: 7:00 p.m.)

Monday, May 9, 2016
Washington-Lee High School
1301 N. Stafford Street, Arlington, VA 22201

Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School
7130 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22043