Updates from Letty – May 6, 2022

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,

This week’s post will be short and sweet.

(1) We adopted the FY23 budget in record time this week. And it’s a great budget that responds to many of the top priorities while being fiscally responsible. Besides a quick recap, read on for the adds/subtracts we made along the way as I think it gives you a good sense of our priorities and values. (Let’s hope we don’t have to re-do the budget in July as Richmond still hasn’t passed a state budget, of which our local budget has many dependencies.)

(2) The FCNP reported exciting potential news about the Stratford Motor Lodge site and because it was briefly discussed in a public meeting, read on – I’ll share what I know right now.

(3) And probably most exciting is that the city’s first splash pad is open at Founders Row. Days/times are TBD, but the plaza is open to the public, just in time for warmer weather after this rainy weekend.

City Council is taking a week off, so my posts will be on a brief hiatus as well. We’ll be back in the saddle the week of May 16.

Stay dry,

What Happened This Week:

(1) FY23 Budget Adoption

The press release does a good job summarizing the highlights of the budget. By the numbers:

  • $1.23 real estate tax rate (a 9 cent decrease)
  • $4.30 car tax rate (a 70 cent decrease, thought to be temporary due to a sharp increase in vehicle valuation due to worldwide supply issues)
  • $10.17 sanitary sewer rate (a 3% increase, the first since 2016)
  • $19.28 stormwater fee (a 3% increase) 
  • 4% salary increase for City government employees
  • Fully funds the School Board’s requested budget with an increase of 6.3% from FY22

Since the City Manager’s proposed budget presentation in March, here are highlights of changes we’ve made along the way, that made it into the final budget. Could we do more/better/faster? Always. But this year’s budget makes some serious strides. I think these adds/subtracts give you a good sense of our community values and priorities:

  • Expanded senior and disabled person tax relief by $188k (44% increase)
  • Added $250K to sidewalk maintenance and paving budget (54% increase)
  • Did not implement a new Commercial and Industrial tax, which we believe was poorly timed after a rough two years for many businesses
  • $50k to fund the next phase of the Government Energy Plan for carbon emission reduction for government and school operations.
  • $50k for Renting to Refugees pilot program
  • $15/hour minimum wage for City government employees

What’s next:

  • Wildcards: we will be keeping an eye on the real estate appeals (due to higher assessments, there are 3x the average appeal cases), the status of Richmond legislation and budget, and of course the broader economy and inflation.
  • There are a few areas that I’ve heard from you and advocated for, but didn’t get new funding. The consolation is that there is work underway. Also – FY22, the current budget year, ends in June, so the end of summer/early fall is when we’ll close out the budget year and assess whether we’ll have an opportunity to address community needs.
    • More bike lanes (VT grad student class reviewing our master bike plan)
    • Automated traffic enforcement (speed camera near school zones feasibility assessment with vendor this spring)

(2) Stratford Motor Lodge

Following our Economic Development Committee meeting last week, the FCNP reported that Wawa has a pending contract for the Stratford Motor Lodge site which has been shuttered for months. It is proposed to be a smaller urban format convenience store with electric vehicle charging stations and no gas pumps. The proposed use and plans are currently under review by city staff so there is nothing final yet. Usually such site plans would be under the purview of the Planning Commission and not City Council.

Letty’s quick thoughts: I’ve heard many lament about the lack of a convenience store in town so this will be welcome news for some. And while this is prime downtown real estate, it’s a very small parcel with no other adjacent landowners interested in selling or redeveloping, so a taller/denser building may not be viable – for a small site, this commercial use should work well. (And as I’ve said before, not every corner needs a dense, mixed use building so having smaller infill uses is a good thing especially replacing a financially underperforming eyesore.) When an application is submitted to the city, I’ll be able to share more.

Wawa Logo, history, meaning, symbol, PNG

What’s Coming Up:

Monday, May 16, 2022 – City Council Work Session*

Monday, May 23, 2022 – City Council Meeting*

Monday, June 6, 2022 – City Council Work Session*

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