Updates from Letty – December 9, 2022

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,

We kicked off the FY24 budget process this week with our annual joint meeting with our School Board colleagues. TL;DR: the preliminary revenue forecast is 4.2% growth over last year. Read on to learn more about what that may mean for your tax bill and key cost drivers that will make this next budget tricky.

I’m also including the annual “Where Students Live” analysis – as a small district with a lot of data, we have become good at accurately predicting pupil generation by housing types/sizes. This helps us plan school capacity (which we have plenty) as we tackle the regional housing shortage (which we don’t have enough of either affordable or middle housing stock).

Next week is our last meeting of 2022 and we’ll issue budget guidance, discuss the feasibility of implementing speed cameras and more red light cameras, and hear the recommendations from an employee compensation study. You can continue to provide your input via email, join us for next Monday’s meeting where we’ll take public comment, or come to Meet the Council office hours next Wednesday morning.

Take care,

What Happened This Week:

FY24 Budget Kickoff – highlights:

  • Revenue: Preliminary revenue forecast is 4.2% growth over last year. Of the 4.2%, the biggest revenue category is real estate taxes, with assessments projected to be 3.9% higher than last year. While not the dramatic increases we saw last year, 4% growth is still quite robust. The other categories of revenue (eg sales tax, meals tax, etc) are also expected to grow steadily. Keep living local – keep your disposable income in the Little City!
  • Costs: Across the schools and general government, a key budget priority will be to fund compensation, especially to stay competitive with the region in a tight labor market. In the general government, we’ll hear recommendations on the results of a compensation study next week, which will have associated costs. In addition, we’ll be facing higher costs for fuel, supplies, construction materials due to inflation – and some wild cards like metro costs and a potential recession next year.
  • Your bottom line: If the tax rate does not change, the 3.9% higher property value roughly translates to a $424 higher tax bill for the median homeowner next year.

City Manager Presentation (& FY24 Financial Forecast)
Superintendent Presentation

(2) Where Students Live – Annual Analysis

2022-2023 Where Students Live

This is one of the most interesting pieces of data we review each year. As a result of collecting data over time for the new developments we have built, we can predict – down to the housing unit type/size – the number of students we anticipate in that building and can therefore plan school capacity needs and costs.

  • Student enrollment this year remains mostly flat, with a slight uptick from last year (2534 total students in the entire district) and has not re-bounded to the pre Covid levels. Next year’s enrollment is predicted to be largely flat with a slight increase as well.
  • Regional trends such as lower birth rates, high housing costs, and the still unknown impacts of the slow return to in office work will impact future enrollment.
  • The majority of students (62%) in our city continue to live in single family homes and 10% live in newer mixed use development, which is where we’ve concentrated the growth of new housing stock the past 20 years. The remaining 28% of students live in an assortment of older housing condos, apartments, and townhomes.
  • The good news is that for our latest project to open, Founders Row, which is now 88% occupied – the actual number of students came in line with our projections.

What’s Coming Up:

Monday, December 12 – City Council Meeting* (last meeting of 2022)

Wednesday, December 14 – Meet the Council Office Hours (9 am, City Hall)

*every Monday (except 5th Mondays and holidays) at 7:30 pm. You can access the agenda and livestream here, including recordings of past meetings