Updates from Letty – February 10, 2017

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,

It was great to see so many of you at last Saturday’s community meeting on the GMHS campus project. If you missed it, the materials and video recording are now available. Also coming soon – a FAQ for all of the questions and comments we heard. This will be the most ambitious capital project we will undertake, so I encourage you to understand the options and share your questions, concerns, and preferences. Help spread the word to friends and neighbors too – we want to hear from a wide range of citizens. You can email cityclerk@fallschurchva.gov to reach all of City Council or reply to this email.

We’re about a month away from the budget presentation by the City Manager. Read on to hear how FY17 finances are going, a proposed budget amendment that will come up next week, and an update on the GMHS roof that I haven’t seen reported yet.

Community input is important to me – I appreciate everyone who emails and stops me around the Little City with ideas and questions. A new outreach channel I’m going to try is “office hours” at a local spot. Between the GMHS campus project and budget, we have a lot of important, weighty decisions ahead of us. I’d like to be available in person to hear your thoughts and questions. Join me for coffee next Friday, February 17th from 9-10 am at Rare Bird Coffee. (Or just come say hello!) If it’s popular, I’ll schedule other ones at other times of day around town. Look forward to hearing from you!



What Happened This Week:

GMHS Campus Community Meeting

If you missed it – the video from Saturday’s meeting and past materials are available here: http://www.fallschurchva.gov/1599/High-School-Campus-Project. I know there is a lot of info on that webpage – expect a facelift and information to be disseminated in a more user-friendly, digestible way aoon. Stay tuned!

City Council Work Session

(1) Mid Year Financial Report – the 2nd quarter of FY17 ended in December so we reviewed the status of City’s finances. While revenues appear to generally be on target – peeling back the onion, we focused on several areas:

  • The good news – property tax revenues and meals tax revenues are strong and coming in above budget forecast.
  • The mixed news, but mostly good in my opinion – sales tax is slightly lower than projected (due to Fresh Market not opening), but overall it’s 9% higher than last year (vs sales tax in the rest of the region is more moderate at 4-5%) which means that we are doing a good job attracting more spending in the Little City with new development coming online.
  • Risk areas to watch – real estate taxes are below projections – due to tax relief abatements, commercial assessment adjustments, and commercial rehab credits. Building permit revenues are typically a category that is spiky, heavily dependent on when new projects occur – and so far this year, they are coming in significantly below forecast due to Mason Row not yet submitting their application for building permits.
  • Overall, based on how FY17 is performing, we expect the FY18 budget picture to be consistent with outlook discussed in December with the School Board ~3% growth.

(2) GMHS roof update

While we were on the subject of City finances – an area of concern I heard from many was the status of the failing roof at GMHS, if we’re going to repair it, and if so – how much will it cost. Since Dr. Schiller was in attendance, he reported out that they have found a $100K repair solution + annual warranty. It will be funded from dollars from the current year school operating budget and savings from past construction projects – with no new transfer of operating or CIP dollars needed.

(3) Proposed FY17 Budget Amendment & GMHS Next Steps

A draft budget amendment was discussed to transfer funds across CIP projects, deallocate funds due to grant denials, and request additional funds to continue the planning for the GMHS campus project.

As part of staff’s request for an additional $500K for the GMHS campus project – we reviewed the spending done on the project to date (since FY14). We have spent $675K of capital reserves to date, with the majority spent during the unsolicited and PPEA processes:


Letty’s take on the next steps for GMHS: we have more work ahead of us to continue the outreach and listening in the community, more explicit deliberation of options and their pros and cons, chartering an economic development working group with the EDA, Planning Commission and others, and discussions with UVA/VT, WMATA, and Fairfax County. Also of note is that the School Board has been discussing the possibility of revising down the school program – potentially reducing a new school construction costs significantly from the $117MM estimate. Depending on which renovate/build new/phase option we choose, the costs of the planning process will vary, so several of us were hesitant to allocate $500K additional dollars in one fell swoop. We decided to limit the budget amendment for the campus project to only $200K, mainly covering the cost of the overspending already occurred.

We need to keep up the momentum coming out of last Saturday’s community meeting. This is a complex issue, so we are trying to balance thorough and thoughtful decision making and not rush the decision with the desire to move forward with a November 2017 referendum. Expect an agenda item on GMHS at each City Council meeting in the next few weeks and stay tuned for our deliberations.

(4) Other – FCC-TV update – Assistant City Manager gave an update on the work to resolve issues with FCC-TV. FCC-TV is a great community resource and I am hopeful we can resolve the current challenges so we can expand programming and use of this channel.


What’s Coming Up:

  • TOMORROW, Saturday, February 11 – Delegate Marcus Simon is holding a mid session town hall tomorrow morning in City Hall Council Chambers, at 10 am.
  • Tuesday, February 21 – City Council Work Session
  • Friday, February 24 – Budget and Finance Committee Meeting (8 am)
  • Friday, February 24 – Economic Development Committee Meeting (930 am)