Updates from Letty – March 30, 2017 – Budget Edition #2

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,

The big news this week was our “first reading” vote on the FY18 budget. Read on for photos from the women’s history walk, pinwheel garden dedication, and a quick recap of the City Council meeting and my preliminary thoughts on the proposed real estate tax rate increase (from $1.315 to $1.355 per $100 assessed value). This budget cycle, we’re testing a move of the traditional budget town hall meeting from Saturday morning to Sunday afternoon to encourage more citizen attendance – it will be this Sunday, April 2 at 3 pm at City Hall, so I hope to see many of you there.

Also, this coming Monday night’s City Council work session will be a biggie – besides a presentation about the newest submission of the Broad and Washington development project and the Miller House, we’ll have a budget specific discussion on the Capital Improvements Program (CIP). With the GMHS campus project, library, City Hall, and other projects, we’ll be taking an important look at the CIP. I’d like to ensure we can tackle those backlogged infrastructure needs in a sustainable, holistic way especially in light of the escalating costs for Mt. Daniel.

Last meeting plug: I had great turnout at my trial of “office hours” last month, so I’m scheduling two additional ones in April. Hearing from you before our final budget vote is important to me! Stop by, support our local coffee shops, and let me know what’s on your mind.

  • Saturday, April 8 – 9-10 am – Cafe Kindred
  • Thursday, April 20 – 830-930 am – Rare Bird Coffee


What Happened This Week:

(1) Last Sunday’s first ever Falls Church Women’s History Walk was a great success! It was wonderful to see a a diverse and impressive turnout. If you couldn’t make it, you can still catch a mini history lesson about the women from Falls Church’s past. Photos of the 16 stops are posted on my Facebook page. I bet you’ll learn something new!

(2) We also had a great turnout at our annual “planting” of pinwheels in recognition of April as Child Abuse and Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention months. Check out photos of the dedication. I encourage you to stop by Cherry Hill to see the pinwheels, which are symbols of childhood hope, health, and happiness. If you would like to plant a pinwheel outside your home, stop by the Dept. of Housing and Human Services in City Hall and pick one up for free. Thank you to We Support the Girls for donating the pinwheels.

At the planting, we also announced a community workshop on Tuesday, April 25 at 630 pm (City Hall) – hosted by the City of Falls Church, SCAN, Darkness to Light, and We Support the Girls. The workshop is for adults to learn how prevent and recognize child sexual abuse and react responsibly. It’s a free event, but registration is required by email.

Throughout the month of April, I’ll be posting facts and tips on my Facebook page to raise awareness about both causes. Stay tuned!

(3) City Council Meeting

  • Congressman Beyer legislative update- video
  • Deferred to 4/10 City Council Meeting:
    • Mt. Daniel $2.6M budget request – decision deferred to allow for additional time to address the escalation in costs
    • Falls Church 2040 Vision – final vote deferred for second public hearing and recommendation from the Planning Commission on the revised vision statement. The PC recommended draft:

      In the year 2040, the City of Falls Church is a welcoming and inclusive community – a special place in the heart of Northern Virginia. Involved citizens are key to the City’s long-term success as a leader in education, environmental sustainability, multi-modal transportation, and vibrant economic development. By investing in neighborhoods, community services and facilities, schools, and parks the City preserves small-town character and history while honoring a deep commitment to progress and a growing community. The continual rejuvenation of robust commercial areas supports the City’s high quality of life for all citizens.

  • Budget First Reading Votes:

    You may have already read that we voted to grant “first reading” for the $88.5M operating budget, $1.315 to $1.355 real estate tax rate increases, the CIP, and increase from 7% to 8% for the transient occupancy tax (aka, hotel tax). For those of you new to the budget process – Monday’s first reading vote is a preliminary budget vote. It enables us to formally schedule and advertise public hearings for April 10th and April 24th to hear comments from citizens and schedule adoption on April 24th.

    Letty’s thoughts: We are 3 weeks away from a final vote that will approve the budget and set tax rates. An important clarification: by law, after first reading, the budget and tax rates we adopt can be lowered, but cannot be increased. As such, I voted for the budget package as proposed to allow us the flexibility to hear from citizens on your priorities. One theme that I have consistently raised is balancing short and long term needs, especially as it relates to CIP projects like the GMHS campus. The analogy I referenced on Monday night is saving for college and making that financial investment in the face of uncertainty. We know we have a kid going to college in the near future. We may not know which school yet and therefore how much it will cost, but we know a range. Specific to GMHS – with the various working groups underway, we understand the range of costs for  the options on the table, we have enrollment forecasts vs capacity constraints, and we understand the current conditions and maintenance challenges. We can’t pretend the GMHS costs aren’t coming. And even with maximum economic development, we also know that renovations or a newly constructed school won’t be free. No one likes more taxes, but I do support bolstering our reserves for that looming cost, especially if it means we’ll ask for less later and future tax rate increases can be slowly phased in. However, I stated that 3 cents towards reserves feels like too big of an ask at this time.

    An priority important to me that is not being funded in the proposed FY18 budget is Neighborhood Traffic Calming. As I’ve been a proponent of funding traffic calming especially as we continue to develop the commercial areas – I probed into how we will address NTC this year. The City Manager clarified that the $200K we appropriated from the reserves overage at the end of 2016 actually will be spent in FY18. The money is expected to cover projects on N. Maple and ped crossings at Lincoln and N. West. For FY19+, staff is submitting grant applications to address a bundle of requests next in the queue. A common question is how we can achieve greater throughput. The constraint is not only more money in the budget for the physical traffic calming solutions, but also more or re-allocated staffing to handle the project management, engineering, contracts, etc.

    So between now and April 24th – we want to hear from you! You can email us, come to Sunday’s town hall, or the public hearings on April 10th and 24th. Do you think we should increase the real estate tax rate by 1 cent to fund the requested school operating budget? And 3 additional cents to go into reserves for GMHS? What needs would you like to see funded?

What’s Coming Up:

  • Today, March 31 – GMHS Economic Working Group (730 am, Dogwood Room)
  • Sunday, April 2 – Budget Town Hall #2 (3 pm, City Hall Council Chambers)
  • Monday, April 3 – City Council Work Session – CIP Review, Miller House, & Broad and Washington Presentation (730 pm, Dogwood Room)
  • Wednesday, April 5 – Future W&OD bridge over Lee Hwy (6-8 pm,  Yorktown High School)
  • Saturday, April 8 – Letty’s Office Hours (9-10 am, Cafe Kindred)
  • Monday, April 10 – City Council Meeting – Budget Hearing (730 pm)
  • Monday, April 17 – City Council Work Session – Budget Review (730 pm)
  • Thursday, April 20 – Letty’s Office Hours (830-930 am, Rare Bird Coffee)
  • Monday, April 24 – City Council Meeting – Budget Adoption (730 pm)