Updates from Letty – Oct 14, 2016

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 had a relatively light meeting week, so this week’s updates will be brief.

As we count down to Election Day in 3 weeks, I want to make sure Falls Church citizens are well informed before heading to the polls about the library bond referendum. The League of Women Voters of Falls Church will hold a community forum examining the pros and cons of the referendum question on Sunday at 3 pm, in the Community Center. I’ve also provided links below to two recent op-eds from both perspectives.

Also – calling all parents, kids, and playground enthusiasts: Cherry Hill Park will be undergoing playground equipment replacement, hopefully by next summer. Now is the time to send in your input! Take a few minutes to email recreation@fallschurchva.gov with your ideas, a favorite park to reference, or a new piece of playground equipment you’d like to see at Cherry Hill. The design will take shape in the next few months, so your ideas are important now!



What Happened This Week:

City Council Meeting – Oct 11, 2016

  • As we previously discussed in work session back in mid September, we held first readings on two tax incentive programs to encourage more commercial office use and technology businesses. Given the need to continue to balance our tax base with more commercial revenue (we’ve only had 2 office-only projects in Falls Church in the past 10 years), I see both programs as important tools to attract newer, high quality office use and bring more daytime workers tot he City that we might not otherwise be getting. See my previous blog post for a recap of the proposed changes. We voted 7-0 on both ordinances, and second readings will occur on the Oct 24th meeting.
  • Financial Policies – we continued the discussion on the proposed financial policy changes. Expect the vote on the policies to occur in the next few weeks as well. A few highlights from this week’s discussion:
    • The policy to fund “pay as you go” and capital reserves at $1.5MM/year in order to prepare for the GM-MEH expense and maintain existing capital assets (eg, dump trucks, building, etc) will put more pressure on the annual operating budget. If we were to adopt this new policy and meet both components, $1.5MM would be equivalent to 4 cents on the real estate tax rate. In the FY17 budget we adopted in the spring, we did put in $550K that went to WMATA obligations, so an additional $950K or approximately 2.5 cents of real estate tax rate is required to fully fund the policy requirement if adopted. We’ll need to consider if we can phase this in so taxpayers can be prepared.
    • Pension funding – I’ve fielded a few questions from citizens about this. This is a complicated topic I’m still learning, so I’ll share what I’ve learned. The proposed changes are to set a floor for contribution levels (minimum of 5% on the basic plan, 7% on police plan). Required contribution levels can be spiky year to year (depending on actuarial calculations) which ultimately impacts employees’ take home pay. The proposed change sets minimum contribution levels so we’re more resilient if the market downturns and contribution levels shouldn’t need to go up as drastically otherwise.
    • Expect to see more community engagement/outreach about the policy changes. Prior to the CFO’s retirement, the City will produce a video that will explain the policy changes to reach more in the community.


What’s Coming Up:

Sat, Oct 15, 9 am-2 pm – Recycling Extravaganza + Household Hazardous Waste Disposal. A full list of what can be recycled/disposed is here: http://www.fallschurchva.gov/604/Recycling-Extravaganza-Collection-Events

Sun, Oct 16, 3 pm – the League of Women Voters of Falls Church will hold a community forum examining the pros and cons of the November 8 referendum question concerning the proposed library expansion and renovation. The project will cost $8.7MM, which its debt service is equivalent to 1.5 cents increase on the property tax rate. The meeting will be at the Community Center.

If you can’t attend and would like to read two other perspectives – I’ve included two recent op-eds on the referendum:

Mon, Oct 17 – last day to register to vote or update your information. Absentee voting is open, and they always count! Request your absentee ballot online if you have a Virginia Driver’s license or stop by the Voter Registrar’s office in City Hall.

Mon, Oct 17 – City Council Work Session – agenda will be posted shortly here, but expect discussion with HSAC (Human Services Advisory Council), FY17 budget amendment, 116 Great Falls St re-zoning and subdivision.

Sat, Oct 22 – The Police Department will hold a Prescription Drug Take-Back Event during the Farmers Market 10 am-2 pm outside City Hall.

Tues, Nov 1 – Joint City Council – School Board Work Session on GM-MEH campus plan