Updates from Letty – May 5, 2023 (Budget Edition #3)

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 home stretch of budget season, and the good news is that we’ve largely come to a consensus on the budget we’ll adopt this Monday night. The budget is a reflection of our community values and one of the most consequential decisions we make each year. Read on to see the final changes we made in our “markup” work session this week, specifically two investments that are important to me: funds to provide new “deeply affordable” housing stock and significantly more dollars for paving, sidewalks, crosswalks, and signals – reflecting the top two concerns I’ve heard from the community.

Also – I’ve been working on “a thing” the past few years: as I’ve seen firsthand the importance of civic engagement and bringing more and new voices into the fold, some neighbors and I are launching a new civic group, Falls Church Forward. We share our vision for a more vibrant, welcoming, sustainable – and ultimately, a more equitable Falls Church in this week’s FCNP guest commentary. Fittingly, we’ll welcome a speaker from AARP on livable communities this Sunday, May 7 at 4 pm at the Community Center at our first public event. I hope you’ll learn more about Falls Church Forward and join us.

Thanks for continuing to read and engage deeply – I look forward to your questions and comments each week!


PS – Early voting for the primary starts today!

What Happened This Week:

FY24 Budget Markup

After 6 weeks of work sessions, public meetings, and deliberations, the “markup” work session prior to budget adoption is the final meeting where we get into the weeds of budgeting, all the adds/subtracts in order to come up with a balanced budget and CIP. Monday’s budget staff report has a lot more details on all the changes to the budget that we’ll adopt, but I do want to call out two specific changes:

(1) “Deeply Affordable” Housing – if you remember from last week’s housing deep dive, we currently have about 200 units of affordable housing (and growing to 300 with underway projects, assuming we preserve all the ones expiring in the coming years). All of those units have traditionally targeted households earning 60-80% Area Median Income (AMI). You might be surprised that in the Washington DC region, AMI is about $142K/year for a family of 4. 60% of AMI would serve households earning about $85K/year. And of those, we only have only a handful of units that serve the more “deeply affordable” income ranges of 30-40% AMI, which are workers like bus drivers, janitors, home health aides. In this year’s budget, we’ll allocate about $100K to “buy down” the price of market rate apartments in the city so that they are affordable to 30-40% AMI households, adding 5 net new units of affordable housing to our portfolio.

While 5 units may seem inconsequential, it’s worth noting that the current way we create new affordable housing stock is within new mixed use buildings (about 20-30 units per building, which we only open every few years), so 5 units, and at the 30-40% AMI level at that, is worth some fanfare!

(2) Core Transportation Infrastructure

Public Works has $2.4M in unfunded needs for core infrastructure (paving, sidewalks, crosswalks, signals). That budget was gutted in the Great Recession 15 years ago and never quite recovered for a number of reasons, most recently because of the heavy debt service for the new high school, library, and city hall. Without boring you on the details on the financial analysis or policy considerations in using reserves (TL;DR – even in several stress test scenarios modeled by staff, our reserves are healthy) – we are planning to deploy our reserves, likely in 3 tranches of $800K over the next 3 years to “catch up” on that infrastructure. We’ll re-evaluate each year, taking into account any changes in the economy, should the reserves be needed for other purposes.

Stay tuned for a paving schedule (note: when streets get re-paved, streets are brought up to ADA compliance and bike facilities per the Bike Master Plan, like sharrow markings, get added) and a master sidewalk/crosswalk list based on the requests we’ve heard from the community that can get accomplished this coming fiscal year (begins July 1) with the additional funding.

What’s Coming Up:

Monday, May 8 – City Council Meeting – Final Budget Adoption*

Wednesday, May 17 – Letty’s Office Hours (12 pm, Mr Browns Park)

Monday, May 22 – City Council Work Session*

Wednesday, May 24 – Ask the Council Office Hours (9-10 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