Updates from Letty – May 3, 2024 – budget edition #4

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’re in the final two weeks of budget season. Thank you for all the input we’ve received – we’ve held several town halls, office hours, discussed at length in a marathon 5 hour meeting this week, and listened and read your public comments. On Monday, we’ll be in our “mark up” session where we all offer amendments and try to reach consensus on the proposed budget before adoption on May 13. Read on for my thoughts, including cool projects underway, early thoughts on the property yard, and why I think it’s important we look for further tax rate reduction opportunities while balancing the priorities of the community.

A few important call outs for this weekend and coming week:

  • Join or Die Movie Premiere – if you’re reading my posts, you’re likely already civically-minded or civically-curious, so this is for you! Our very own Pete Davis made an award-winning documentary about the importance of joining a club and being engaged in your community. I saw the premiere last year at SXSW and can vouch for what an inspiring film it is. Join me and other neighbors at the Falls Church premiere this Sunday at 2 pm at Meridian High School – free tickets here.
  • Mayors’ Fitness Challenge – this is also heading to the finish line! Are you logging your activities or need to catch up before May 11 (which is also the day of the Women’s History Walk).
  • May Office Hours – join me for my last “walk and talk” office hours next Friday May 10 at 9 am at Cherry Hill Park.


PS – May is National Bike Month, with various biking events and opportunities to engage. My middle schooler enjoys joining the weekly Bike Bus (thank you to all the volunteers who make it happen!) to the secondary campus.

What Happened This Week:

(1) Projects Underway – Rapid Response & W&OD Crossings

Spring is the beginning of an active public works season. The annual paving program will soon be underway (see my recent post for the schedule). In case you haven’t seen these, there are two key projects that just wrapped up or well underway.

  • The W&OD Trail crossings work: you’ve probably noticed new temporary traffic lights, equipment, and some delays (thanks for everyone’s patience). The crossings are being upgraded to fit the W&OD’s dual trails, re-paved with stamped concrete, along with new 4 way stops at some of the crossings for safer car-bike-ped interaction. The crossings at Little Falls and Great Falls will complete by June and then the project moves to the crossings at N Oak and N Spring.
  • One of our first “tactical urbanism” projects just completed at the intersection of Fairfax/E Broad. With paint and bollards straightening out the intersection, we’re encouraging cars to slow down, adhere to the stop sign, and improve visibility and sightlines. Thanks to our new Rapid Response Team in Public Works we’re funding in the budget. Expect to see the next projects at Columbia/Lawton and Virginia/Great Falls.

(2) FY25 Budget

What’s the Latest – as I’ve said previously, the Budget Q&A document (now at 79 questions!) is one of the best ways to see the discussions underway about the budget especially in response to input we’re receiving. The initial City Manager presentation is a good high level summary too.

Property Yard – we also had our first substantive discussion on the proposed new property yard and options at the Gordon Road Triangle. As proposed by City staff, the project would occur in FY28, with analysis and public engagement beginning this summer/fall to study the potential for public-private partnerships. With an estimated $30M cost for a new yard (without any sort of partnership), this would need to go to a voter referendum in November 2026. After so much investment in new schools, library, city hall and more over the past 5 years and a new HVAC and small facelift at the Community Center planned this coming year – the Property Yard is one of the last public facilities to be modernized, so it’s an important undertaking. At the same time, we should consider potential partnerships that might help offset the cost and capitalize on an important gateway to the city.

Letty’s Budget Thoughts: Without getting into all the nitty-gritty details (if you’ve watched our meetings, you can be assured that we are!) – the upcoming budget does a lot of good – tripling our local investments in affordable housing and funding competitive, comparable pay raises across general government and school employees, for example. There is important foundational work to invest in people, infrastructure, and processes. As we “grow up”, the Little City way doing things will need to change. I’m a big believer that our processes need to be more efficient and less manual while delivering the high customer service our community expects. And with strong revenue growth projected (8% overall, with 19% growth in commercial and 3.7% in residential), we’re in a unique position to do all of that and be responsive to the rising costs of living. To me, 8% growth in revenue shouldn’t mean a commensurate 8% growth in budgets, especially when reflecting on historical data (see below). As such, I’ve been pushing for options for an additional penny tax rate reduction (two pennies total, down to $1.21), especially sensitive to headcount growth as those positions mean higher, ongoing future costs we’ll bear. We have been fielding advocacy to do more for environment, transportation, and the arts – and those all have merit and we’re weighing them in the broader context of city-wide priorities.

What’s Coming Up:

Sunday, May 5 – Join or Die Screening (2 pm, Meridian High School)

Monday, May 6 – City Council Meeting – Budget Markup*

Friday, May 10 – Letty’s Walking Office Hours (9 am, Cherry Hill Park)

Saturday, May 11 – Women’s History Walk (10-3, Cherry Hill Park)

Monday, May 13 – City Council Meeting – Budget Adoption*

Monday, May 20 – City Council Work Session*

Tuesday, May 28 – City Council Meeting*

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