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F.C. Council Preps to Cut School Budget, Public Hearing at Special Meeting Thursday

With an eye to adopting its final coming fiscal year budget next Monday, the Falls Church City Council decided to call one more work session for this Thursday, and to open it to public comment.

The Council walked away from its work session tonight with tentative plans to cut $167,000 from the F.C. School Board’s budget request, while adding a comparable amount to the City Manager Wyatt Shields’ operating budget that Shields said would be used to avert the layoff of three full-time City employees he’d otherwise recommended. The Council also decided to tap its Northern Virginia Transportation Council Trust Fund for money to keep the City’s GEORGE bus system operating on a scaled-back schedule for the coming year, and removing the fiscal impact of the controversial bus line from the City’s operating budget, and thus from impacting the real estate tax rate. The Council’s current plan would keep the tax rate at the $1.07 per $100 of assessed valuation as recommended by Shields last month, a four-cent rate hike that will translate into a small increase in net terms for the average City homeowner.

Susan Kearney, vice-chair of the School Board, told the City Council last night that the extensive e-mail lists of stakeholders in the City’s school system would be notified of Thursday’s special meeting and hearing electronically. She noted that the School Board is slated to meet in its own work session tomorrow (Tuesday) night, but doubted that relevant guidance on the impact of the Council’s proposed cut could be adequately crafted so quickly.

The Council also dedicated considerable time tonight to decisions on some fiscally marginal items, such as the Watch Night New Year’s Eve went and the annual Halloween Party at the Community Center, and tentatively decided to save a few thousand dollars by cancelling the Halloween event.

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