Blog posts are the personal views of Letty Hardi and not official statements or records on behalf of the Falls Church City Council
By now, you’ve already read or heard the outcome from the City Council meeting this week. Both ordinances (1) $120M bond referendum on the November ballot and (2) the full CIP passed with 5-2 votes. This means voters will get to decide in November if you authorize us to take out a bond for up to $120M for a new high school and all projects in the CIP will occur as scheduled. I supported the GMHS bond referendum vote and although I was in the minority for the CIP vote, I will continue to advocate and do my best to minimize the risks of “doing it all” I spoke about on Monday.
We have a lot of communication and voter education ahead of us in the next 3 months. The City has to stay neutral in bond referendums, so we won’t be advocating for one position or another. Given the complexity of the project, I spoke about making sure we have a robust communication plan so that citizens are well informed before heading to the polls. In case you missed the most recent town hall a few weeks ago, the video and materials have been uploaded online.
Coming soon also is a comprehensive set of FAQs covering a range of topics from the school program to enrollment projections, economic development to financing. I’ve heard the concern that there remains many unanswered questions and unknowns; I am hopeful that the FAQs that assemble years of questions and answers in one place will begin to assuage those concerns and add more questions we should be addressing. If you have ideas on different ways to reach and educate citizens about the referendum, I’d love to hear them.
Our next and last City Council meeting of the summer is on August 14, so we’ll be on a mini summer break until then.
What Happened This Week:
With the passage of both ordinances for the full CIP and authorization of the $120M bond referendum this week- what does that mean?
If voters approve the referendum in November, the GMHS project will proceed to the RFP stage where we’ll get detailed designs and actual bids for the school. Design, permitting, documentation is expected to occur through most of 2018, with construction to begin in early 2019 and lasting 2.5 years, with completion in summer of 2021. That means rising 5th graders will begin 9th grade in a new GMHS in the fall of 2021.
As such, GMHS debt would be issued in 3 tranches, synced with the construction timelines – FY18, 19, and 20.
City Hall proceeds with debt to be issued in FY18; Larry Graves turf field in FY18; Library in FY19; TJ in FY20 + many smaller projects – about $218M in total debt, 4x our current debt levels. In all, the current modeling on the tax rate increases needed for the sum of these capital projects looks like this: between 6-13 cents on the current real estate tax rate, or an increase of $400-900 annually for the median homeowner. The lower end of the range assumes the 10 acre land transaction occurs and the higher assumes it’s delayed or we choose not to sell/lease the land.
What’s Coming Up:
- Friday, August 4 – GMHS Economic Development Working Group (730 am, Dogwood Room)
- Monday, August 14 – City Council Regular Meeting (last regular meeting of the summer)