City of F.C. Retains Top Bond Rating
In a critical development amidst the crisis in the credit markets, the City of Falls Church learned the good news that Fitch Ratings has confirmed the City’s “AA-Plus” bond rating, the second highest possible for municipalities, and declared its outlook “Stable.”
According to Fitch’s report, as announced by City Hall, the City’s debt is “moderate and manageable,” and reflects the City’s “solid general reserve levels, including strong financial management and sound economic indicators such as low unemployment rates.” The statement from City Hall reported, “While the City is not intending any major bond issues in the coming year, maintaining a high credit rating by the rating agencies ensures that interest rates for future debt will remain relatively low.” Other major credit rating agencies, including Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s, are expected to include Falls Church in their annual surveillance reports in coming months.
F.C. Council OK’s Moving Ahead With BJ’s Deal
By a unanimous vote of all four members present Monday night, the Falls Church City Council agreed to task City Manager Wyatt Shields and the City staff with crafting a memorandum of understanding that would lead to a formal agreement with the JGB Company for the construction of a BJ’s Wholesale Warehouse on 8.4 acres fronting on Wilson Blvd. in Falls Church. While no official zoning changes or special exceptions are required for the construction and operation of the enterprise, the City has come forward with a preliminary offer of a tax sharing deal with JBG to make its extensive land fill and preparation of the property for a “big box retailer” such as BJ’s possible. City officials told the News-Press that if all goes smoothly, construction could commence by late spring, and the new store, estimated capable of bringing up to $1 million in new tax revenues to the City’s coffers, will be open for business by late summer 2009.
F.C. Council Restores $50k for Arts Center
A full-court press mobilization of Falls Church citizens and patrons of the arts won over the Falls Church City Council, which gave final approval to restoring $50,000 it had originally promised to help complete an arts center at the new Pearson Square mixed-use complex on S. Maple Avenue. The Council’s second and final vote was unanimous, based on an appreciation for what the center could offer the City, culturally, and for the added revenues it could attract. The Falls Church Arts and the Creative Cauldron will now be launching a capital fundraising campaign to attract the $100,000 needed to complete the center by next spring.
Next Budget Cycle Begins in F.C. Monday
With a joint work session involving the Falls Church City Council and the City’s School Board, the parameters of the next fiscal year budget cycle will be roughly defined for the first time. The budget promises to be the most difficult ever for the City due to declining residential real estate values, City Manager Wyatt Shields has already warned. The City Council and School Board shaved $800,000 off of the current year’s budget, without layoffs or cuts in programming, with a final vote of approval by the Council last Monday. But Shields has said he doubts the next budget, for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2009, can be achieved without some major cuts. The News-Press has learned that the School Board may be expecting to achieve a zero-growth budget, a first for the continually growing F.C. school system. On the plus side, the City will have to estimate two new sources of revenue that will begin to flow during the next fiscal year, the BJ’s Wholesale Warehouse store and the Hilton Garden Inn Hotel.
Apparent Suicide Victim in F.C. Identified
The victim of an apparent suicide reported earlier this week in Falls Church was Doug Benge, a well-liked frequent customer at downtown Falls Church restaurants. Friends gathered informally at the Dogwood Tavern to mourn his passing Monday. He was pictured with members of the Ireland’s Four Provinces staff on the front page of the News-Press last month when that restaurant was named the winner of the Taste of Falls Church.
Brian Moran Named “Legislator of Year”
The Commissioners of Revenue Association of Virginia named Del. Brian Moran of Alexandria to 2008 “Legislator of the Year” at an awards ceremony Tuesday in Norfolk. He was recognized for “fiscally responsible leadership and support for local government priorities.” Moran is a likely candidate for governor of Virginia next year.