Updates from Letty – September 13, 2019

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 have a big weekend of community events coming up in The Little City. The Falls Church Festival is tomorrow, acclaimed author of Behold the Dreamers Imbolo Mbue will speak at GMHS to kick off Welcoming Week, and the Falls Church Education Foundation‘s annual Run for the Schools is Sunday morning.

It’s not too late to register for the Run for the Schools – you can register in person up until the morning of the race. I hear that there may be a friendly competition between your City Council and School Board members too… At the Welcoming Falls Church event this week, I shared my story of being a first generation immigrant and how I am indebted to good housing and public education for giving me an equitable start in the US. Despite our very affluent community, it’s important to remember that Falls Church has an at risk population here – and you can support the FCEF which in turn supports programs like after school ESOL, school supplies, food, and clothing – to ensure everyone has a fair shot at success. 

Read on to see why today is special, our vote on the bond issuance schedule, and now that we’ve got almost 2 weeks of school under our belts – the annual school enrollment data.

Hope to see you out there this weekend!


What Happened This Week:

(1) Today is Lindy Hockenberry Day! As an elected woman, I can’t claim success without recognizing the women who blazed the trail ahead of me. The City Council proclaimed September 13, 2019 as Lindy Hockenberry Day in the City of Falls Church in gratitude for Lindy’s decades of leadership in Falls Church. Lindy was an FCCPS teacher for 31 years and continues to be a substitute teacher. A loyal fan of the Mustang sports teams, she regularly attends games and wrestling matches, cheering for generations of students. Following her retirement, Lindy was elected to City Council, where she served for eight years, two years as Vice Mayor, and most recently eleven years as a member of the Planning Commission.

Join us in recognizing Lindy for her service by sending her a note through this link.

(2) Bond Issuance Schedule – As I wrote about last week, staff recommended to us that we consider issuing $127M in bonds in one big issuance later this year instead of two separate tranches this year and next year, primarily to take advantage of the current low interest rates. I shared my concerns that the proposal is different from the long-discussed financing plan shared with citizens prior to the GMHS referendum. It’s also difficult to predict future interest rates. After much deliberation and hearing from many of you, I decided to support the recommendation in a 7-0 vote, primarily because there would be a final opportunity to check in and change course should interest rates fluctuate dramatically. An important clarification: because current interest rates are lower than the modeling done for the 2017 referendum, we will be paying less total interest / debt service than the model. but this isn’t “free money.” With a combined issuance approach, we’ll be paying less interest than projected for the life of the bonds, but there is no windfall. In the near term, we will actually be paying slightly more debt service each year – nearly $15M next year, over 14% of our annual budget – because we’ll be borrowing more money and earlier than planned.

(3) Mr. Brown’s Park – it’s official! We voted to formally name the new downtown park to Mr. Brown’s Park in honor the three generations of Browns of Browns Hardware. Have you checked out the park recently? Fun and free programming is scheduled to continue this fall.

(4) 2019 School Enrollment – just this week, I fielded a question about school capacity, which is not surprising considering that many other school districts around us have school crowding and redistricting discussions underway. Solving school capacity issues has dominated our focus in recent years – first with Mt. Daniel and then tackling GMHS. With the expansion of MD complete and GMHS now underway, we’ve been making good progress.

The School Board reviewed the opening day numbers, which is important input for operating budgets and school capacity planning. Keep in mind these are not the “official” numbers that will be reported to the state and there is usually fluctuation throughout the year, but this gives a decent directional idea of enrollment. This year’s opening student enrollment was 2677 students, an increase of 23 students from last year – bringing our total enrollment back to 2017 levels. (Remember, last year’s 2018 enrollment was the anomaly with 2654 students, a *decrease* of 25 students compared to 2017.)

What’s Coming Up:

Campaign Info: If you’re interested in seeing campaign debates and learning about the other candidates, I’ve added the calendar of events this fall to my website here: https://www.lettyhardi.org/events/