In an extraordinary joint work session bringing together the Falls Church City Council, Planning Commission and School Board held at the Community Center Monday night, Falls Church City Manager Wyatt Shields, with the aid of his City Hall staff, detailed his proposal for addressing the $5.6 million budget shortfall that the massive economic recession of the past year has visited upon the City.
He walked the body through a virtual line-item exercise of proposed budget cuts that involve a freeze on all but essential capital improvement projects, a freeze on hiring to fill over 10 vacant positions in City government, and $600,000 in non-personel cuts from divisions of the City government. It is all achieved in Shields’ plan without layoffs or pay cuts, and while Shields could make the cuts on his own as the City’s chief executive, he’s chosen the path of transparency and seeking the blessings of the three leading policy bodies in the community.
Despite the fiscal crisis represented by the budgetary shortfall, however, few of the many seats set up in the Community Center for the general public were filled, following on the fact that last Monday, at the first regular City Council meeting since news of the shortfall broke, not one citizen was present to comment.
On the school side, while deferrals of capital improvements were proposed, no cuts in afterschool or athletic programs were suggested. On the City side, all the Parks and Recreation Department special community events were kept, except for one or two events for City employees, and all Rec Department athletic program funds were protected. One of the biggest single line item savings will come from repaving 1.5 instead of 1.75 miles lane miles on City streets next year, and cutting back the City’s recycling days for toxic household materials from two to one event annually.